“A good reputation is more valuable than money.” – Publilius Syrus, born 85 BC
It once was that only celebrities, politicians, and athletes had their every triumph and flaw recorded for the world to witness, but today we’re all privy to the same scrutiny since it’s impossible to navigate the digital world without leaving a social imprint. When it comes to your professional reputation, what is not coming up about you may be as critical as what is coming about you. Therefore, Google or Facebook – to name a few – can either be your best friend or your foe. The information potential employers can find about you will need to be the information that you want communicated about you. The good news is that, for the most part, you have some control over this, but it will require some work.
For starters, if you haven’t done so (and more than half of us have), search your name and see what comes up about you. You should also search your email address, because if you have commented on a board or posted a review and identified yourself by your email address, you may be surprised by what comes up. My friend was shocked to see that the top result for her name generated a ten-year-old interview that she did for her college newspaper around her obsession with shopping. Another friend realized that her email address appeared alongside an article on a personal medical condition that she had commented on. One friend was even embarrassed by the various book and product reviews that came up associated with her name, which, in fact, were left by someone with the same name. The reviews were always negative and she worried that it would make employers think she was a constant complainer.
Now that you’ve taken inventory of what appears on your behalf, you have a few decisions to make. If you don’t like what appears and it’s, in fact, about you, you will need to find the source of that information. Is it a blog you started writing that you want to shut down? Is it a matter of adjusting your privacy settings on Facebook or Google? If it’s a site you have no control over, try contacting the owner of that site and asking him/her to remove that content. For search engines, submit a web page removal request (particularly if the search result is of personally identifiable information about you) or email Google at email@example.com if the information is indexed or cached. If the situation is serious and cumbersome, you can also hire an online privacy and reputation management company like Reputation.com to help you.
Of course, the best way to avoid running into issues that can negatively affect you is to be mindful of your actions overall. If you’re commenting on a public board or updating your status, how would you feel if your employer or future employer saw it? I’m surprised by how many people complain about their jobs or specific people, clients on Facebook. It’s impossible to control for the possibility of who may see your comment, therefore, the best way to stay out of trouble is to watch what you put out there.
Now, on the other hand, if you have nothing coming up about you, there are a few things that you can do as well. I’m not talking about improving your Klout score, necessarily, but if you want to be the mobile specialist and are selling yourself that way, it would be a good idea to appear alongside results such as this. The best way to get started is writing for a site that has a strong search engine presence such as Blogger, Tumblr, or even The Huffington Post. Find a topic that you have some authority and interest to write about and establish yourself as the expert on this topic. Once you become established as the go-to person on this (and I recommend finding a niche), then reporters and conference planners will be calling you to participate in events or stories, which also will become available for anyone researching you.
In future pieces, I’ll be talking about “you as a brand” and like the brands we work on, the information that people can access on you can make the difference between getting your foot in the door – or even the job – or not. It says something about you whether it’s right or wrong. And think about what this information may mean to someone looking you up five, 10, or 20 years from now.