Most of us have a pretty solid idea about how we think others perceive us. We tend to be aware of what we look like when we head out the door, especially if we are going someplace where we know it matters, like an interview. Yet few of us realize that because of our online presence, we are potentially always on an interview… 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you have any type of social media presence, from MySpace to Facebook, you should realize that all of those potential employers are watching. And you can bet that when we are talking about international jobs, they even look harder. So what does your online impression say about you? When you Google your name, what comes up? Is it you? Is it something you’re okay showing to potential employers? Or does it have a link to your Facebook page with pictures of you partying maybe just a little too much?
One of the first moves you want to make when managing your online impression is taking down anything you have posted that gives you a bad name or image, or even one that is just too casual. Think about the impression you want to be offering potential employers and make the changes in your social media to create that impression immediately! If you want to keep a more personal version of a Facebook or MySpace page, fine. But do yourself a favor and keep it under a nickname or fun alias and share it only with family and friends.
Next, research yourself online to see what’s coming up under your name that you might have forgotten about. The last thing you want a potential employer to run across is something you’ve posted online but forgot about, and therefore aren’t consciously managing. Again, the key is to put forth the impression you are deliberately trying to create.
Of course, sometimes items come up that have nothing to do with you. So what do you do if the information isn’t yours? Before writing this, I Googled myself, Alison Craig. On the first page, I showed up once in the results. None of the other Alison Craigs’ listed here were me. There were listings for some doctors and a furniture store company. Those postings didn’t bother me much. The listings that did concern me were on the following pages for another author with the same name, Alison Craig. This Alison Craig doesn’t write at all on jobs and interview skills, but would a perspective employer be able to easily distinguish me from her? And do you have an online twin that has just enough in common with you to confuse a perspective employer?
If you do find yourself in the same boat as I am, there are a few things you can do to minimize any misinterpretations of the real you.
- Photo Up. From social media to your email signature, get your pretty face out there. Make sure you use the same professional looking headshot on everything. If by chance you don’t have a professional head shot, no worries. Go outside and have your friend take a few shots. Choose the best and use a free online site to crop and edit your new headshot.
- Get Your Name Out There. Be active on your social media sites, create new accounts so that your name and profile come up more often than the other guy or gal. Create a blog telling of your job search experiences and maybe even make light of the fact that there’s “another you” online. A note of caution here: if you’re applying for a position internationally, do research into the linguistics of the region to which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for a job in the UK, make sure that in your blog posts and social media updates you use words that would not be offensive or out of context in that country. Being aware of such differences can go a long way in minimizing any potential miscommunication.
- Direct. Direct. Direct. Send a potential employer to your well-managed social media by directing them there. On the bottom of your email signature add the links to your blog and social media accounts. This way when that new potential employer wants to learn more about you, their need to Google you is minimized and the information they do find supports you rather than sabotages you.
The key is to remember that online information can either be helpful or hurtful, so be aware of your cyber image. Creating and maintaining an online impression that supports the core of you may take some work, but what a great resource to assist you in landing that perfect job!
Alison Craig is an author, speaker, and the CEO of 3 Impressions, Inc, an impression management firm. The 3 Impressions SM ideology of Craig’s transforms individuals and corporations from a mundane, mainstream existence to a place that reflects a zealous, passionate, and free spirit with a distinct and focused direction, leading to a life lived on a level unattained by many. For more information, visit www.3impressions.com.