In a highly digitalized world where people’s first impression of you is now based off of a google search where they find out everything from your latest Facebook post to your LinkedIn profile, it becomes imperative to organize this information. We all know how important first impressions can be, because we do judge the book by it’s cover no matter how hard we try to say that we don’t. The biggest question now is how do I organize my google search to reflect the things I want to best be known for and bury the information that I would rather not have right up front? There are a couple of easy steps to achieve this and I like to call it BRaNdInG YoURseLF.
Step 1: Search For Yourself
Literally, and don’t just Google yourself. Look at all different search engines from FireFox to Internet Explorer to Safari. Try your name in different combinations: your name forwards, backwards (as in last name, first name), with your middle name, a nickname, misspellings of your name, with common search term keywords like your hometown, high school, college, job, current city. This should give you an overall idea of what others see when you first look yourself up, and the impression you can give.
I would even search your home address, email address, and phone number too just to be sure.
Step 2: Search Challenge part 2
After this go through your social media accounts and look for any damning posts or pictures you made and forgot about that are embarrassing or just not appropriate anymore. You can use the Wayback Machine to help with those really really old posts from your MySpace days in middle school. It’ll help you to remove all your accounts that you’ve forgotten about that may still be active or archived on the internet.
If you want to be super cautious or like extra credit, look at your friends, significant others (even exes), and family member’s accounts to see what they posted about you. They may not take online reputation as seriously as you or are just not as educated in privacy terms since they change frequently.
Step 3: Social Media Scrub
So now you’ve found all the blogs, pages, articles, pictures, posts, etc. that you would prefer your future employer to not see, now what? Try to remove them, delete them, or make them private if you can’t get rid of them. Talk to your friends and family or originators of posts/blogs and have them remove material your tagged in as well.
On Facebook, open up Settings and then the Privacy menu. Look through all the settings and change to reflect your level of comfort. You’ll notice a section named Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public. Beside it should be the option to click Limit Past Posts. This will make all your past posts friends-only, so you will not have to change the privacy settings on each post individually. Just be aware that this action can’t be undone, so there are several warnings and confirmation clicks, don’t be click shy though, what you’re doing is a good thing!
On twitter, open up Settings and go to Security and privacy. Under Privacy, check the options to make tweets private so that only your followers (people you have to approve) can see your posts.
Do this for all your social media accounts. Be sure to talk to original posters of questionable material to remove as many personal links to the posts as possible. You can also untag yourself if you can’t get ahold of the poster, it’ll still be out there but it won’t be attached to your account anymore. Granted that once you put something on the internet it is always going to have some kind of trace on it especially if it’s been out there for years but don’t worry too much about this, you’ll go crazy!!
You can also ask Google to remove your personal information from searches if you are really concerned , though this is limited in what they can remove, photos and train wreck blog posts are still going to be out there, sorry!
Step 3.5 : Need a Restart or Want to Stand Out?
If you have a very common name like Samantha Smith, and you want to stand out so that people can find your information out of the other 200,000 Samantha Smiths in the world, consider using your middle name in your accounts (like LinkedIn) to differentiate yourself.
If you want to distance yourself from your personal accounts try the same thing, or even change your name on your personal accounts to help make it harder for people to make the connection between the two accounts.
Step 4: Building Your Brand
Now that we’ve covered protecting your past, it’s time to think about your future!!
ADD CONTENT!!!! By creating new content on your blogs, social media accounts, etc. you are accomplishing two things at the same time! You are boosting your personal identity and at the same time pushing down the likeness that an older post is going to pop up in your google search. Google is formatted to pull the most up-to-date information on you, so the more you update and add what we want to be seen the better you are at branding your name.
HOW do I BRAND? try these options:
Start a blog/personal website. Thank you Agnes Scott and the Summit program! You’ve already got a head start in this department! We already have our students building their own digital portfolio. Keep in mind though that just because you have a website does not mean you are done working, no. You need to continue to be active on your site! Also don’t feel like you have to be limited to just posting assignments from your classes or academic experiences on there. Make an effort to post other things, like a little mini blog on something you are passionate about, like knitting, photography, social justice issues, restaurant reviews, let this be a creative outlet to show off yourself to the world. Though, do keep it work appropriate and write in a professional manner. Also when the time comes that you do indeed graduate from Agnes Scott, make sure that you purchase your domain and move over all the work you’ve accumulated so you can continue to build on this as you progress whether it be a graduate program, a first job, or amazing life experiences like Peace Corps or Teach for America.
Polish up your social media accounts. Create a separate account for your professional identity. Add your boss, coworkers, professional colleagues, and post interesting (but work-safe) content on this account frequently. The idea here is to make yourself look like a well-rounded, work-safe person who has passions, your best self!
Be an expert. While you are still in college, and you may not be an expert in your field just yet, try to get yourself out there and get published. Try to be active in the academic material you are interested in and help out your professors with their research. It’s a great way for you to learn more, get some work experience, make good connections with others in your field- aka network- and make your professor’s day! 🙂 Who knows, you may actually get a name reference in an article published, which could show up in a Google search on you, a win-win if you ask me.
The point here is to post professionally, but also with personality! Don’t be sterile, but also don’t go trashy. Be authentic.
Step 5: Be Observant
Now that you’ve created a good digital presence, it’s time to preserve it through a couple of vigilant steps.
Set up a Google Alert. Google Alerts tracks search terms, and will tell you when a new search is being made on those terms. There’s a section of it called Me on the Web which will let you track when someone is looking up your name. You can set up an alert through email to let you know when someone is looking you up, if you are really concerned.
Have different email addresses. You should have at least two email addresses, one that is professional and one that is personal. This helps in many ways, like separating your business emails from your personal life when you’re not at work and helping you to organize all the emails you receive on the daily (ex: coupons from subscriptions.) Also social media accounts let people search from friends through address books that include email addresses as well so this is a good way to help build that separation yet allow you to still be actively engaged in your personal life.
Finally, be diplomatic. Think before you post. Use common sense. If this is something you wouldn’t want your parents, your boss, or someone else of importance in your life to see, then it probably doesn’t need to be posted online. You can’t get in trouble for not posting something, so keep that in mind and you should be good to go on maintaining your digital presence. 🙂
Also check out this amazing website for presentations on everything you could possibly ever want to know about branding yourself! One of their presentations I’ve included below, (yes they are Canadian):