Your Online Presence In Career Search

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS
Over the last few weeks, there have been articles appearing in the papers discussing the phenomenon of how the internet has been infiltrating our personal and business lives and the negative impact that it can have.  In the Sunday NY Times, April 18, 2011, Laura M. Holson wrote an article entitled When Publicists Say ‘Shh!’ It discusses  how “publicists these days should demand hazard pay,” having to deal with the public activities  of Charlie Sheen, Gilbert Gottfried and Chris Brown, for example. These include online actions like the tweets on Twitter with tsunami jokes made by Gottfied that got him fired by AFLAC. 

“Remember when a publicist was called a “press agent”? Now to quote the legendary Hollywood publicist Pat Kingsley, “suppress agent” might be a better term,” wrote Ms. Holson.   Further on, Ms. Holson spoke to Terry Press, a Hollywood marketing executive who said that “A career is built on a certain public perception and, there is no advantage in showing people the reality is different.”

This is why the Disney Channel has created a talent orientation for teenagers looking to become the next superstar which includes information on handling media and Internet privacy, among other things. According to Patti McTeague, the facilitator of the program, “The problem with the Internet is not only the potential for overexposure, but also the quickness of the medium to disperse false or easily misinterpreted information.” Please read this article as it is very relevant to career search as I will discuss further on.

Companies are springing up to deal with “Online Reputation Management” such as Reputation.com. This company creates what they refer to as an “inoculation campaign” to suppress negative content about a person or business. Vizibility.com helps to create “a strong impression, validate your background and avoid mistaken identity by controlling your search engine results.

How does all of this fit in with career search? Well, you have worked on your resume, started posting on some of the numerous job boards out on the web, and worked on increasing your networking efforts.  However, there is one area that many people overlook. People often overlook their online presence.  Since our lives are more public than ever, we also need to keep on top of our online presence because employers, now more than ever, are looking at tweets, facebook posts and photos. Before you are even called in for an interview, hiring decision-makers have the ability to Google you online to commence their process of determining if you are the “one” for their opening.  Will you fit in with their company culture? Will you present a positive face for their firm?  Many people do not think about the information that they post and how it is shared. However, this is all part of your “brand.”

What should you do? Start by conducting an online audit of yourself. Think of the names that you use for your email address, username, Twitter handle and any other way that you want to be identified.  All descriptions should be professional.  Having “Hot and Sexy” as part of anything that an employer or professional colleague sees can lessen your opportunities for career advancement. Employers want to know that you know what is appropriate and that you are not going to embarrass them in any manner.  Your desire for self-expression needs to be handled in a different forum.  In the world of employment, it is a dictatorship of appropriateness and decorum!

Think about the messages that hiring managers will receive about you in the event that you have postings on Facebook that say things like “Called in sick and had a great day at the beach.” All of your photos, too, are fair game.  If you have a number of pictures of yourself in various stages of drunken stupors or handling materials offsite that clearly belong in the office, you are providing fodder for an HR person to use to exclude you from their interview process.  Review your privacy settings and make sure they are set in a way that continues to help you put your best foot forward.

Realize that when you post or tweet things instantly, they can be seen by everyone.  During the Super Bowl, a television commercial aired exhibiting the latest technology for the Chevy Cruze that allows you to listen to your facebook feeds through OnStar while you drive.  The scene is of a young man who drops off his date and then presses a button to hear his new postings. To his joy, he finds out that the woman posted that it was “The best first date ever.” Put this into the career search environment.  You just finished an interview and are walking out of the building. You just have to post about the interview! “Aced interview at The Acme Company. HR person had some attitude. Who does she think she is?”  Guess who may be watching and what will the result be? 

Keep checking your online information for consistency so that there are no surprises. Make sure that your descriptions of places that you worked and timelines jive. If not, re-visit them and do some housekeeping to clean them up. And remember the fact that everyone, including the hiring decision-maker, is watching so put your best image forward. Once it is on the web, you have lost control of it for eternity.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if this helped you. As always, I wish you every success.  Let’s get to work!

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