In today’s technology-driven world, your online reputation is just as important as your offline reputation. Whether you’re on the hunt for a new job or wish to take the next step in your career, it’s important to develop an online presence that attracts employers and positively showcases your experience and expertise.
By setting up and optimizing key online profiles, you’ll network with the right people faster and present an online reputation that demonstrates your skills, achievements, and professionalism to recruiters and hiring managers.
How Your Online Reputation Influences Your Career Advancement
Whether you maintain an active online presence or not, content about you (as well as content that can be directly or indirectly linked to you) will, nevertheless, be created and uploaded online for the public to see.
Your online reputation is closely associated with your digital footprint. A digital footprint, also known as a digital dossier, refers to the trail left behind whenever people go online. There are two main types of digital footprints: passive and active.
A passive digital footprint is created when personal data is collected without the owner’s knowledge or permission. An active digital footprint, meanwhile, refers to the active data traces that users leave behind intentionally. Using social media sites, blogging, uploading images and videos, and taking part in forums are just some of the ways people can create active digital footprints.
Your digital footprint is developed over time and depending on your actions and the actions of others, it can propel your professional ambitions or hinder them. A digital footprint is relatively permanent, and once the data becomes public or semi-public, the owner has little control over how it will be perceived and used by others.
With so much information available online, recruiters and hiring managers have made it a point to review the online presence of job applicants. According to CareerBuilder’s study, Candidate Behavior 2015: Hiring Managers, the majority of hiring managers to use the Internet and social media sites to gather crucial information about job applicants. Moreover, 46% of hiring managers have admitted to not interviewing certain applicants after reviewing their online presence.
To ensure that you’re always putting your best foot(print) forward for your career advancement, you need to set up and optimize your online profiles as well as manage your online reputation.
Here are a few ways to accomplish that:
- Review your online reputation.
Search Engines & Google Alerts
Search for your name on major search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo). What information about you appears in the search results? Would potential employers or hiring managers be impressed with what they find?
You should also consider setting up Google Alerts for your name so that you’ll know whenever new content about you shows up on Google’s search results.
Check the security settings on all your social media accounts—especially Facebook and Twitter. As social media sites are constantly tweaking their security policies, it’s possible that sensitive content that you thought was restricted to certain audiences has now become public or semi-public.
The last thing you want is for potential employers and hiring managers to see your party photos or status updates/tweets that were meant only for the eyes of family and close friends. Ensure that your private content remains restricted by adjusting your settings so that others cannot tag you in pictures or posts without your permission.
And as much as possible, delete red flags (i.e. content that leaves a negative impression about you) from all your social media accounts.
Online Reputation Management Sites
To determine how much data about you is available online, you can also visit online reputation management sites. Reputable online reputation management sites collect all the publicly available data about individuals (including testimonials) and present them in Wikipedia-style entries.
Such sites help you keep track of online data and testimonials pertaining to you. In addition, some of these sites allow you to delete the information you want to keep private right off the sites they’re published on.
- Secure your web properties.
If you notice that the top search results for your name on the major search engines are from non-professional sources, then it’s time to focus on creating a more professional-oriented online presence.
Consider setting up a personal website where you can craft a professional image for the public to see. Many web hosting and domain registration providers offer you your own domain for a small fee.
Fill up your personal website with a short bio, highlight your major accomplishments and career milestones, and upload your CV. Getting your own domain is not only an impressive and inexpensive means of investing in personal branding, but it also shows potential employers that you’re tech-savvy.
- Optimize your social media profiles and network aggressively.
A non-existent online presence can be just as damaging as a negative one. To show potential employers and hiring managers that you’re active in your profession or industry, consider setting up and optimizing key social media profiles.
LinkedIn is the best social media platform to showcase your professional accomplishments, work history, and career objectives. Create a personal profile on LinkedIn and network with other professionals in your industry aggressively. This shows potential employers and hiring managers that you’re serious about establishing credibility in your field and broadening your horizons.
You should also join groups on LinkedIn and participate in discussions that demonstrate your expertise.
Other Social Media Sites
Consider setting up public profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and other relevant social media sites. Use your public social media accounts for professional networking and personal branding purposes, and keep private social media accounts strictly for personal communications with friends and family.
- List your contact information on your professional online profiles.
List your contact information on your professional online profiles so that potential employers, recruiters, and hiring managers will be able to contact you directly. Phone communication is preferred by many recruiters, as it helps them determine quickly if a candidate is serious about applying for a job position.
If you’re uncomfortable listing a personal phone number, consider listing your Skype contact details or signing up for Google Voice. Google Voice allows you to have a free phone number and voicemail box where people can leave messages for you. You can also set up your Google Voice account so that any phone calls made to your Google phone number will trigger an alert to your email address.
Don’t forget to include your email addresses (the ones you use for work or professional networking) in your professional online profiles.
- Demonstrate your expertise by blogging and leaving intelligent commentary.
Demonstrating your expertise will help build your authority both online and offline. A great way to do this is to leave insightful comments on professional blogs, forums, and publications. Don’t forget to leave a link to your personal website or blog to drive traffic back to your web properties.
Make it a point to leave thoughtful commentary on high-traffic websites that are directly related to your industry, profession, or areas of expertise. When done properly, potential employers and hiring managers will hear about you and may even actively pursue you.
Blogging is a great career advancement tool, and if you can write well, consider becoming a prolific blogger. Use your blog to regularly publish posts that demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. If possible, avoid setting up a blog on a separate domain; instead, create a new page on your personal website and call it a “blog”.
Whenever you write and publish a new post, don’t forget to share it on your public social media accounts. If you write relevant, insightful, and helpful content, people in your network are more likely to share, comment on, or discuss your blog posts. Key players in your industry are bound to take notice, including potential employers.
- Focus on online reputation management (ORM)
If you find negative content about you that ranks prominently on the organic portion of the search engine results pages (SERPs), then you should consider investing in an ORM strategy.
ORM can be as easy as focusing on creating and publishing positive and informative content about yourself. Such content is more likely to be indexed and ranked prominently on the SERPs by the search engine bots. Eventually, this positive content will outrank the negative content on the search results.
Once negative content is pushed down the rankings to page 2 and lower on the search results, they’re less likely to receive clicks and traffic.
Meanwhile, if you are dealing with more complicated or serious PR issues such as full-blown hate sites about you, multiple bad testimonials or reviews, past legal difficulties associated with your name or brand, or negative coverage/mentions in the media; it would be ideal to hire a reputable ORM company to rehabilitate your online reputation. Doing so may be the best step in restoring your positive image at the soonest possible time.