5 Ways To Clean Up Your Online Presence
Google is the new CV! Forget everything you've been told about resumes/CVs, and let this sit for a minute. Google is the new CV! Let me explain.
Last week, I had the opportunity to be a part of an interview process, and it was really interesting to interact with candidates. One thing that immediately became clear to me was the applicants had done their research. They'd checked out my LinkedIn profile, and other online accounts and came ready to have a conversation.
As we spoke about the role, I was glad for two things:
- My LinkedIn profile was updated with my professional history.
- My social media accounts were not only uniform across the board (same username), but the content shared were aligned with my values and areas of interest.
Friend, what does a Google search say about you? Do you have a solid online presence that accurately captures your interests and passions, or is your social media activity messy and unattractive?
Quick exercise: Type your name into a Google browser. What kinds of contents are associated with your name? Are you happy with your online footprint?
Research shows that hiring managers and potential employers look at the online profiles of top candidates. Recruiters also source for candidates by checking out their social media profiles. Think Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, LinkedIn, personal website, etc. All your activities online contribute towards creating a picture that may attract or repel future employers, potential clients, or opportunities to collaborate.
Some examples of things that make your look bad online include bad grammar, comments and posts that reflect biases and prejudices - on Nigerian Twitter, it is not uncommon to see people who express negative ethnic or religious sentiments on their profiles. Other things that present you in an unflattering light include inappropriate content (nudity, crass videos), rants, excessive cussing, rowdy pictures - it is okay to go out and have a good time, but posting pictures of over-shayo-ing and too much gbedu may portray you as an irresponsible person.
Am I saying you shouldn't have an authentic online presence? Of course not. However, it is important to understand how your activities online may be hurting you professionally. So, what next? How can you create an authentic, yet compelling online presence that is aligned with your professional goals? Here are 5 things you can do:
1 | Start with a self audit
Start with a Google Search. What comes up when you type your name into a web browser. Take note of the content (keep a list), and then make judgements about the results. Are the contents aligned with your values? Put yourself in the shoes of a potential employer, client, or collaborator. Would you be willing to move forward with a project based on what you find online? Be honest.
Take stock of all your social media and online profiles. Are they uniform across the board (username)? Does your user name have a professional ring to it (i.e. your name or business name, vs. a moniker like "thebaddestguy#1" or "JenifafromAjegunle"). Also review the content you share on your social media accounts. Are they appropriate for all contexts (both professional and personal).
2 | Clean up your profiles
After the self audit come the clean up. Take a minute to determine how you'd like your audience to see you. What adjectives would you like to be identified by: professional, knowledgeable, expert, productive, disciplined, responsible, etc. Write down a list.
Now go over your list from the self audit and see if any of the content goes against the reputation you'd like to have. Start to clean up your profiles one by one. Social media sites are a little easier to manage. Other web platforms like comments on blogs, forums, etc. might be harder to clean. The goal is to clean up as much as you can, and counterbalance the current content by posting and sharing content that is more aligned with the image you'd like to develop for yourself.
3 | Update your accounts
After cleaning comes updating. Remember how we talked about those unprofessional looking account names? It is time to update them. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn allow you to update your profiles and change your username. Go ahead and update them with a more professional username - you can use your name or a variation. Where possible, add a brief description about yourself.
For instance, all my social media accounts contain a brief description of what Work Smart Nigeria is about: A career + personal branding blog (the what) that teaches young Nigerian professionals (the who) how to prepare for + excel in the workplace (the outcome).
Use a professional image - professional head shots if you can afford it. If you are using a selfie, make sure that the background is minimal - a plain background works best.
What to avoid |
- Using pictures of your pet, selfies with friends, celebs, parents on your LinkedIn profile.
- Weird looking usernames or email addresses. No one cares if you love Lagbaja. Lagbajaswife@yahoo.com does not look good on your resume or professional online account.
- A brief bio or description that says "lover of God," "wife to Lagbaja," and so on. These are acceptable on certain platforms. But if you are looking to present yourself as a professional or expert, these descriptors are not helpful.
4 | Engage
Nope, I am not asking you to get engaged o. Rather, participate in online communities that are aligned with your professional goals. I.e. Read blogs that write on things you are interested in, leave a comment or send the blogger a note, follow influencers on social media - tweet at them, comment on their posts, share their content, make an impression. If you love writing, start a blog, or create a site and post your resume on it. Web apps like About Me is a great place to start. You can also blog on Medium.com till you are ready to host on a platform of your choice.
5| Be Intentional
This means being deliberate about your activities on the internet. Before you post, think! What am I about to post? Is it important? Do I need to post it? Will it enhance or detract from my reputation? Remember that anything you put on the internet can be found and is fair game for anyone who can find it. You want to create content and share ideas that enhances the brand you are building for yourself.
Alright, your turn. When you did a web search for your name, what results did Google display? Good or bad? Do you need to clean up your profiles? Let me know in the comments below.