Manage your online identity... The Internet is forever

interviewing planning ahead self awareness self-advocacy

Now I want to talk about how important it is to manage your online identity. 

This is something that a lot of people, I think underestimate in today's day and age. But it just becomes increasingly important to understand what your presence looks like online. 

Nowadays, every hiring manager that I ever speak to says that 100% of the time they run a search online about the candidate that they're thinking about hiring. And that means a Google search. That means social media. It's all of the things. 

And it's really important to understand that your online media presence can oftentimes be more important than your resume.

Google Yourself Each Year, and Before Every Interview

I'll tell you a story. 

 A friend of mine who was a doctor from the Midwest had recently moved to the west coast and back in the Midwest had an excellent reputation, and they got an offer to come in and interview as the chief of staff of a hospital, a very prestigious role for a young doctor. 

But many, many years prior had a roommate with whom they had separated on less than positive terms. Basically had a disgruntled former roommate. And my friend had not thought about that ex-roommate in many years. 

 And the interview was scheduled and it was a panel interview. Four or five interviewers just interviewing my friend. And suddenly, one of the panelists pulls up a webpage on the internet, that has pictures of my friend drinking alcohol, looking inebriated, basically very compromising, embarrassing pictures of my friend on the internet that turns out, had been posted on some shaming website And my friend was unaware that these pictures existed. 

So of course you can imagine, she was extremely embarrassed in the interview, had no knowledge of these photos, and really had no way to explain the context behind them, or any understanding about what had happened, until it was already too late. 

 When I asked my friend, I said "When was the last time you ran a Google search on yourself?" 

 She said "Never." 

How can you get in front of something that's potentially negative, if you don't know it exists? 

Now that's just one extreme story. 

But managing your online identity is critical. 

Go Back Through Your History

We all probably have some social media posts or some comments that we've written in the past that we wish we could take back, or that we probably never should have put up there in the first place. Whether it's politics or other sensitive topics or just something that we did when we were young and less mature.

It's really important to go back through your social media, as far back as you can go, and make sure that you are aware and proud of everything that is out there online. And you might not be able to remove everything. Like my friend had to go through great lengths to have her photos removed from this website, to the point of even threatening a lawsuit, but was eventually able to get them taken down.

Managing your online identity means understanding that your presence in the world is bigger than just your physical presence. Your digital presence is worldwide and it's accessible to everyone. And so if you have say highly political or religious or other sensitive things on your social media that you don't want the public to see, then manage the privacy on those posts or on your profile so that they're not publicly available.

 Other people, when they're thinking of you as a candidate for a job, they are going to see your presence online. And knowing about it and managing it is critically important.

 What You Can Do

 I talk to a lot of younger students and young professionals who basically have grown up with their entire existence on the internet. If you're worried that you aren't able to manage all of that, then another thing that you can do is create another email address specifically for your job hunting. 

A lot of times recruiters and hiring managers will run a search on an email address and then find other websites or social media profiles that are associated with that particular email address. 

 There are different things that you can do to mitigate how much research a potential hiring manager can do on you, if you're really worried about it.

But just understand how important it is to know what's out there and manage it. And if there are things that are negative that you are able to get in front of them with a logical explanation. 

Manage the Positive

On the flip side, let's talk about the positive things, like your LinkedIn profile. 

In the 21st century, your LinkedIn profile is more important than your resume. Because the LinkedIn profile tells a hiring manager so much more than what your resume does. Your LinkedIn profile can tell what kind of groups you are affiliated with how you interact with other business professionals on social media, who your common connections are. And that's a very, very powerful thing. 

What if you received awards or earned a credential or gotten an accolade of some sort? You absolutely have the right to promote that and share that information and make sure it's prominently available. 

When I was in my thirties, I earned The Business Journal's "Forty under 40" Award, and I said " Hey, this is something I'm really proud of."

One of my friends said "Write a press release." 

I asked the boss, and he said "Absolutely!" 

So we put the press release out and I ended getting a lot of recognition for that. 

So that's another way of managing your online identity. Basically getting in front of the negative things, and promoting the positive things, so that you can show your best characteristics and let people find them.

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