For better or for worse, the days are gone where we were judged purely by our CVs, job interviews, and the like – today, despite laws prohibiting them from doing so, potential employers look at our Facebook profiles, and Google our names. So, even though I’ve always been resistant to the idea of denying my personal identity online, I’ve come to realize that it is more important than ever to make an effort to control your digital reputation.
Fortunately, Joe Sabado and Torrey Trust from Grad Division ran a workshop here at UCSB recently, sharing some tips. It turns out that the process is really quite easy, and “managing your personal brand” doesn’t feel as much like selling out as I expected it to.
Here are some of the key tips towards managing your online reputation:
*Google yourself. Torrey and Joe tell me that potential employers generally only look at the first page of results, so as long as the first few results are good, there’s no need to worry about it too much. Admittedly, I’m not sure really what to do about it if you have embarrassing results coming up for your name, but, despite having never paid too much attention to this before, or put much effort into it, my results are still quite good; there’s a good chance yours are too. So, maybe it’s not something to worry about too much.
Without my having to go out of my way to do anything, the first top results on Google for my name are my profiles on Academia.edu, LinkedIn, and Google+, and my blog. The top results on Image Search are all nice, professional-looking photos. And, below that, the next several results include my UCSB History Department bio, and a link to a conference presentation I once gave.
*Crank up your privacy settings on Facebook and other social media sites. Torrey and Joe recommend “managing and branding” rather than hiding, but, personally, I rather be the real me, and not some branded, artificially ultra-professional version of me, in my social networking. We should be free to share funny links with our friends, engage in our hobbies, go out and have a good time, and have employers and others respect our privacy. So, rather than replacing my Facebook profile with some plastic, ultra-professionalized version, I’ve simply hidden the majority of my details from everyone but my friends.
Privacy settings do a lot, not only on a single given site (e.g. Facebook) alone, but also for your Google Results. Turning the privacy knobs up to 11 on Facebook, Google Plus, etc. has hidden most non-professional pictures of myself from Image Search, and has even pushed my Facebook profile itself way down on the Google Results.
*Clean up and maintain your profile on sites like LinkedIn and Academia.edu. These are probably my least-well-maintained social media profiles, since, like most people, I spend most of my time on Facebook and Twitter. But, these two sites are the place to put forward your professional brand. Employers will look at these sites, and for me at least, they come up #1 and #2 on my Google Search results.
*Take a look at some of the meta-social-media search and alerts sites.
**Socialmention.com allows you to search for any term across various social media sites, and also to set up alerts so you’ll be notified when your search terms are mentioned. I searched for my name, and got no results, so.. either I’m doing a half-decent job of being pseudonymous, or something funny is going on.
**backtweets.com allows you to search for links, hashtags, usernames and the like across Twitter.
**Technorati.com has also been suggested to me as a good site for searching for yourself (or whatever terms you’d like) across over one million blogs.
**Google Alerts will keep you notified of new Google Search results that hit the web.
**Finally, BrandYourself.com is a service which walks you through a series of steps to take control of your Google Search Results, and of your appearance, or “brand”, online, otherwise.
You can find a summary of the UCSB workshop, and the slideshows, here: http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/career/2012/5/14/getting-a-job-20-branding-digital-reputation-and-social-medi.html
*Another good resource for these issues is the blog “Wasting Gold Paper,” in which my friend Molly DesJardin writes about anonymity, pseudonymity, digital humanities, and a variety of other topics.