I was watching “60 Minutes” a couple nights ago, and they had a story on a group of people that have been unemployed for a long period of time and the personal, emotional and financial problems they have been going through. They became involved in a private group to help them re-instill their previously held confidence and skills to get them back into the work force. It was a great story. One thing stood out to me, though. During the training program, one of the trainers stated emphatically to a large group of people, most middle-aged or older, that if a prospective employer were to “Google” his/her name and receive no results, he/she would be considered basically irrelevant. Irrelevant. Most of us in the millennial generation do not need to worry about not having an online identity. The great majority of us are on at least one social network, if not multiple. So the issue for us is not whether we have an online identity, but what your online identity says about you.
Many interviewers and employers do their research before they hire a person. That includes typing your name into Google to see what pops up, good or bad, and searching Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Linkedin, Tumblr, Foursquare, etc. They want to know who you really are, not just what your resume says you are. Your online identity is your social persona, and it says a lot about you. How do you speak when you post on your best friend’s wall? Is your Linkedin account complete? Are you tagged in pictures showing activities that would drive a potential employer away? Let’s face it, the internet is really good at bringing out the worst in us. So, how do you clean it up?
1. First Impressions.
The first thing you need to worry about is the first thing people see – your profile picture. Common sense should rule here. If your picture shows you red in the face holding a pint of beer with your shirt off, change it. If you don’t want to take yourself too seriously, that’s fine, just use good judgment.
Apply the same practice we talked about in #1 – find any pictures and posts that you are tagged in that you would not want your dream job employer to see. Tags are easily removable on Facebook: (1) click on the picture you want to be removed from; (2) click on “options”; and (3) click “report/remove tag.” Done.
3. Watch Your Language.
I don’t mean to sound like your mother, but if I do then, well, whatever. This is simple. Swearing is unprofessional. You may not think it’s a big deal, but think about it this way: You just interviewed for a really great job. You would love to have it. They have narrowed it down to you and one other person. Your employer quickly Googles the other’s name. They have a nice profile picture and, oh, look, they just shared an intelligent article about why it’s important to save the pandas. This person is passionate and cares about things. There are no partying pictures. When they find your profile, it looks nearly the exact same.
Except for all the F-bombs.
Surprise! You’re not hired.
Note: It is not only important to get your language under control on your social media presences, but it’s probably best to improve your speech by curbing the cussing.
4. Consistency is Key.
You need to be consistent across all your social media profiles. You can’t clean up your Facebook and not your Twitter. They both show up in a Google search. Having a professional-looking LinkedIn doesn’t matter if your other profiles are junk.
Note: if your are not on LinkedIn, start an account. LinkedIn is not your average social network, however. In fact, it’s not a “social” network – it’s a professional network. Your LinkedIn page serves as your online resume, accessible at any time to anyone. It also serves as a networking tool, allowing you to connect with not only friends, but professionals with whom you work, or would someday like to work for.
Take a close look at your social media profiles and make sure they are ready for prime time. You’ll be happy you did.