Who are you Online?
You should care about your online reputation, as it can overshadow the reputation you try to build in person. Anymore, if you’re scheduled to meet someone for the first time for professional reasons, they have probably looked you up online before you walk in and shake their hand. And honestly, you probably did the same to them.
Like it or not, everyone can be found online. Even if you keep it simple and don’t actively participate in any online communities, chances are there is still a decent amount of information about you available for anyone to find. Whether you’re job hunting, meeting a new client, or are simply networking with other business professionals, you should do your best control what other people uncover about you and be aware of how your online presence can impact your real-world experiences.
While you may believe your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other various online profiles are personal and completely separate from your LinkedIn profile, think again. Just because you only post “professional” content on your LinkedIn, doesn’t mean everything else you post everywhere else online has suddenly vanished and your connections won’t see it.
Take a minute right now to search yourself online (just type your name into Google and see what comes up). What did you find? Is your online persona reflective of how you want to be seen professionally? Were the majority of the results actually about you or other people who share your name?
If the results were less than favorable, maybe it’s time to reassess your online activities. I’m not saying you should delete all of your social profiles, but you should take extra care of the privacy settings, be mindful of your friends/followers/connections, and think before you post. You can’t control what is online about other people with your name, but you can control what you put online.
If your Facebook is full of personal content (status updates, pictures, videos, comments, etc.), don’t “friend” your colleagues or clients. Your vacation pictures may be fine for your friends/family to scroll through and comment on, but you may not want upper-management seeing your pictures and the comments.
When your friends reminisce on Thursdays by posting college photos to Instagram and tag you in them, #tbt doesn’t justify your questionable behavior or clothing choices to your new clients, especially if college wasn’t that long ago. Keep track of what you tag and are tagged in, and know who is able to see those pictures.
Tweeting about your long work week, how much you dislike new company policies, or how incompetent your superiors are may be your way of letting off a little steam, but your current employer and potential future employers will not look favorably on those kinds of comments.
By actively cultivating a positive online presence, you can shape what other people discover and the impacts of those discoveries. It’s never too early or too late to take your online presence seriously. Our lives become more public every day, so getting ahead of it and putting your best self forward will prove beneficial in the future.