Keeping Up Your Online Persona

Continual Maintenance

In addition to cleaning up your online persona and protecting yourself on social media, you also want to be proactive in regard to your online persona. You probably also don’t want to spend a ton of time on a regular basis searching your name in Google to see if anything bad has showed up. Thankfully, there are a few services you can use to monitor search results for your name. There are a number of both free and paid tools available that can help you with this process.

First among them is Google Alerts ( www.google.com/alerts ). With a Google account, you can set up alerts for new things that match the criteria that you specify. In this case, you would probably do well to set up alerts for anything matching your name and your current city of residence. You might also expand a little to include locations where you visit frequently. Google alerts will be emailed to you as the search finds new matching pages.

Second, if you are active on Twitter (or your social circle is), you should make use of Mention ( https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/ ). This tool lets you monitor Twitter for conversations that involve you, which can be helpful not only for engaging with potential employers but also for monitoring your interactions on Twitter.

There are a lot of other tools available for managing particular aspects of your web persona, but Google Alerts and Mention will be enough to get you started. There is another thing you should do as well. You should set up a recurring reminder on whatever calendar software you use to manually review your search results. While the software helps, you should still check things manually in case something has changed.

Cleaning Up the Mess

Once you have a good idea of what kind of problems your online presence can present during an interview, you need to figure out how to deal with them. This isn’t necessarily as simple as you would like. There are a number of reasons for this, chief among them that the Internet does a fair job of storing things, even if you (and the rest of society) want them gone. The bad news is that if you’ve done anything sufficiently bad that has gotten wide attention, it may well stay online forever.

That said, your life isn’t over just because something bad is out there. There is a lot you can do to mitigate most things, and even the worst things can be drowned out by good things. Given the list of items you found earlier, you have a few options for cleaning them up.

If you made the post and still have access to the account used, the easiest thing to do is to simply delete the post and move on. This doesn’t mean that it is gone, especially if it was a scenario where other people could quote you and reply, but that’s probably as far as you can get.

If someone else has made the post and it is inaccurate, you can often contact the owner of the web site and ask for it to be removed. When posts are defamatory, or border on libel, it’s often easier for the owner of the web site to remove it, rather than risk a legal battle. Additionally, you can also ask the person that made the post to remove it. This may or may not work. If the post is particularly defamatory, you might even want to consider legal action. However, bear in mind that legal action can also create public records, in addition to being a distraction.

In addition to removing things from the Web, you should also take some time and figure out how you want to deal with things that cannot be removed. If you think the interviewer has seen the posts or you are worried that they have, you should consider how you can explain the situation. Remember that the interviewer is human too, and they probably have things in their own past that they would rather not admit. If you can gracefully handle their questions and show what you learned from the situation, it can often give a more positive impression. If something negative is online and you can’t remove it, you need to be working on a way to explain it to your benefit.

However, there are ways to make it less likely that negative things will be found. In the next section, we will discuss those.

Better Than Cleanup

While trying to clean up your online profile is a laudable goal, it will not fix everything. Thankfully, there are a few more things that you can leverage in your favor. Anyone looking into your online profile using a search engine is probably not going to be looking past the first few pages of results, simply because it is too time-consuming to do so. Therefore, if you can fill up the first few pages of search results with good things, you’ve effectively erased the negative things, at least as far as a cursory search can reveal. The added benefit of this approach is that it completely changes the nature of the discussion during the interview, by changing the interviewer’s perception of you as being someone who “screwed up” into a perception of you as someone who is doing the “right things.”

If you’ve taken the advice earlier in the previous article to start participating in forums, you probably already have a good start on fixing your search results. As long as the forums you participate in are positive places with good content and show up in search engines, the less likely it is for anything bad to show up in the first few pages of search results.

Additionally, if you blog regularly, especially under your own name, people will often visit your blog to learn about you, rather than focusing as much on search engine results. Search engine results do return a lot of false positives, and it can be time-consuming to sort them out. A good blog that documents your journey also does a lot to humanize you to the interviewer and make them invested in your story. In fact, it can often make people invested in you to the degree that they reach out to you about jobs.

In short, putting yourself out there and producing content will not only improve the impression you make online, but can be used to effectively change the tone of the conversation with an interviewer.

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