As anyone who works in higher education can tell you, students do some funny things. Here are people preparing themselves for careers in their chosen fields who at the time of graduation tend to have more published photos and other information of them in less than professional situations than they do of material that will earn them the jobs they want. As more and more employers will research candidates backgrounds on the internet this behavior can and has cost many people the job they wanted when the employer found something they didn’t like.
How then should a college student handle their online presence? Here’s a few tips to make sure an employer finds the information about you they need without finding stuff you don’t want them to see.
- Control the first page of your Google search results
Know what is on the first page a Google search for your name and make sure there is enough positive information on you to satisfy an employers search for your name. It might not be easy to add to this, but with a little work putting together a blog or other social site it will not be hard for many people to control all the listings on the front page of a Google search. Then, if an employers curiosity is taken care of they won’t have to look any further into your online presence.
- Control access to your devices
It might not be easy to keep your phone or computer safe, but it’s never a good idea to let people post about you. What might seem like a harmless prank to one person can be very offensive to someone else. Don’t be afraid to set a password on your phone, iPad, etc for this. The couple of extra seconds it takes to unlock may be slightly inconvenient but it could be far more inconvenient to remove pictures and other items someone thought would be funny when you left your phone unattended.
- Segregate your social media
Not all social networks work best with just your friends and family, and equally important, not all social networks work well in a professional environment. For example, Facebook tends to be very informal and not always conductive to the most professional posts. Twitter however can be a great place to network with others in your field but isn’t always all that interesting to your friends and family. In fact, I’ve often said in the case of Facebook and Twitter that Facebook is for people you know and Twitter is for people you don’t. This goes for other social networks as well. If your posting information that is personal rather than professional keep that network to your friends and family. There are enough sites out there that you can easily segregate your accounts without losing any of the experience.
- Watch your privacy settings
This is especially true on sites in which you post a lot of personal information. Don’t let just anyone browse your party photos and other information. Let them instead browse sites in which your posts are more in line with the public face you want a future employer to see.
- Don’t post your friends in compromising situations
Unfortunately we can’t always control what is on there and in most cases where there is a problem it is due to a friend posting something of you that you didn’t know about. Don’t be that friend. When tagging photos or posting anything make sure that what you post isn’t potentially damaging to the person your posting about. A little consideration can go a long way.
- Network with those you want to work for
This goes back to the segregation point. Make sure you network online with those in your industry or those you would like to work for. Follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, etc. Then make sure you interact with them. People tend to have pretty good memories and if the CEO of the company you want to work for even so much as notices your name after a positive online exchange that could give you quite an edge when applying for a job.
- Breaking the rules isn’t attractive to employers
Bragging about the speeding ticket you got or how you offended someone, etc might seem funny, but it will definitely make you less attractive to an employer who might come across that post.
- Get your own domain name
This can go a long way to distinguishing you as someone who knows how the net works. Buying a domain with yourname.com is only about $10 a year and it can be used for services such as Google Apps for an email address and more. Using your own email over a hotmail or standard gmail account is just one more step you can take to show an employer you take your image seriously. In addition to a domain name, on any social account you use to network professional try to get a user id with your full name. Not only will it make those accounts easier to find when someone searches for you, but it will help insure that those you do interact with will know your name. Cryptic usernames may seem neat but they don’t do much for connecting you with the information you post.
- Start a blog
There are plenty of free blog sites such as wordpress.com or blogger. With your own domain name you can even host your own site. This will boost your search results on Google and if you write well and write consistently you can very easily come to the attention of other professionals in your field.
- Search for yourself often
This is the best way to make sure what is out there on you is what you want out there. Google your name, look for yourself on Bing, etc. If you find something you don’t like try to get it deleted and then petition the search engine to remove the link. If you don’t find anything on you at all, neither will an employer who will often look further to try to learn more about you.