Chances are you have Googled yourself at some point or another. It’s OK; it’s nothing to be bashful about. Most of us have done it, particularly those of us who work in industries where a strong and up-to-date online presence is important.
Sometimes the results are unexpected and entertaining, not only to find where you are listed, cringe at old photos and get an instant ego boost by reading old news articles about yourself, but also in discovering any interesting namesakes. This made me think generally about who we are in Google’s eyes and who the search giant deems relevant enough to list alongside us.
New Year, new online you?
Our online profiles are widely and increasingly used by recruiters, colleagues and clients to check us out and can inform decision-making and shape perceptions of us. Why not start 2014 by doing an audit of your online presence? Here are a few things to watch out for:
1) Typos and errors
Spelling or grammatical mistakes can speak volumes about a potential candidate, colleague or business partner. This is perhaps unfair as in many industries a spelling error is no reflection of a person’s skill or expertise. Either way, it’s always worth spending a few minutes copy checking your profile. An error-free profile immediately suggests good written English skills and attention to detail.
2) Questionable social media profiles
This may sound obvious but swearing, snapshots of drunken nights out or rants on contentious subjects never look good in the professional sphere, no matter how nice a person you really are or how skilled and committed when it comes to your career. Have a good ‘clean-up’ of your social media pages. Alternatively, you could update the privacy settings for your pages so that they can be viewed by friends or followers only. Bear in mind this is not a fix-all approach; on Facebook, for example, even if you have edited your privacy settings for your posts to be viewed by Facebook Friends only, if one of your friends likes or comments on one of your posts, their list of friends can see it.
3) Out of date information
In the simplest terms, LinkedIn is like your CV. You wouldn’t send a printed CV out that doesn’t contain your last two years of experience, training or promotions, so why should your LinkedIn profile be any different? Also, consider investing a few minutes each day in updating your profile by commenting on industry news, liking or sharing your connections’ updates or adding any new experience or testimonials you have.
A diverse and up-to-date online profile, from a company website mug shot and bio to a proactive Twitter page, helps build a picture of who you are professionally and engage with potential contacts before they’ve even met you. But again see point 2 above; you could impress the likes of Sir Alan Sugar with your corporate persona, but a Facebook photo of you having apparently lost your shoes and hugging a lamppost with mascara smeared all over your face can very quickly counteract all that other positive stuff. Check out this useful guide on what employers don’t want to see in your online profile.
5) What if there isn’t much about me online?
If prospective employers or business partners look you up on Google and find nothing, they may assume that’s because you’ve done nothing, which is probably far from true. You don’t have to be a social media addict or be listed on your company website to come across positively online. Spend half a day setting up a strong LinkedIn profile. Once it’s done, it’s done. LinkedIn can work very hard for you behind the scenes with minimal effort. However, do log in every so often, accept new connections, respond to any messages and indeed, if you are starting to get intrigued by ‘this LinkedIn malarkey’, you could always post something that interests you once a week. You never know what may come of it.
On a more light-hearted note, every time someone Googles your name, it’s not only you they will find. People you share a name with are likely to live half a world away and have vastly different jobs and backgrounds. The only thing you’ll have in common with them is a name. However, in the moment your name is Googled you become, if only fleetingly, connected with a very unique group of people.
I recently treated the Acceleris team to a taste of what they might find with a quick Google. For example, our MD Peter Davenport has a namesake who is a UFO researcher, our Head of PR Louise Vaughan has a counterpart who is a freshwater ecologist with a specialism in phytoplankton and our Senior Account Manager Ellie Smith, meanwhile, shares a name with Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen 2012!
What’s that I can hear? Oh, it’s you typing your own name into Google…