If you’ve ever sent an email, tweeted, or published a paper, you have an online presence. Your “social media presence” or “digital identity” is the sum of everything you’ve ever sent or posted, your network of connections, and anything your colleagues have posted about you. Many people are quite surprised when they first start reviewing their own online presence – and since employers use all this information in their recruiting efforts, it is to your advantage to make sure your online presence reflects your proper professional reputation.
Below are some steps you can use to take control of your digital self, and make sure your online persona is as professional as your offline one.
Gather Your Data
Start by doing a search on your name and email address to see what’s already out there about you. Make sure to include any variants of your name (nicknames, initials) that others might use to search. Is the information accurate and current? Does it provide a positive first impression for people who are looking to know more about you? Is there so little information people will wonder what’s wrong with you?
If you have control over the source, it’s easy to correct outdated or inaccurate information. If you do not have control over the source you can request that it be changed or deleted.
Create Some Content
Even if you correct information now, you don’t know where it has been archived, and will continue to appear. Often, publishing new information, which pushes the older stuff lower in the search engine results, is the most effective way of making data disappear. Post positive, useful information in the comments on other blogs and articles, or start your own blog or twitter feed and provide pointers to useful papers or blogs relevant to your areas of interest.
Update Your Contacts
The real power of social networking is in your connections with other people. Make it a habit to add people you meet to your online groups, and regularly download their information into your personal address book (in case the data in the cloud disappears).
Keep It Current
Make sure your ACS Network (www.acs.org/network), LinkedIn, and other professional sites have the most current information about your professional capabilities and qualifications. Put a reminder in your calendar to refresh them every 6 months and take the opportunity to update your resume at the same time.
You can also use online reputation management tools, such as Reppler , BrandYourself, and/or Google Alerts to automatically notify you when new or potentially inappropriate content appears, so you can remove it quickly before it propagates.
Just as you build and guard your professional reputation in real life, you must build and guard your digital reputation. For many people, including potential employers, the first impression of you will be shaped by what they find online. Make sure what they find is what you want them to see, and is a true reflection of who you are as a professional.
Get Involved In The Discussion
Welcome to the ACS Career Tips column. Each month, this column provides advice and answers to career-related questions on a variety of topics, from job search to career development and transitions. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network — Brought to you by ACS Careers.