Managing Your Online Identity

A step-by-step guide on how your online identity can help make or break your opportunities.

Your online identity or brand is defined by any and all online information that exists about you, whether you created it or not.  Social networking sites, including Facebook, are part of your public image. The material you post and the things you write will influence an employer’s or graduate schools’ impression of you, for better or for worse.  Employers, graduate schools, and other programs can use social media sites and information gathered from them in their recruitment and selection processes.  Know what is out there with your name on it.  If you can Google it, so can someone else.

Check Your Current Online Identity

Step one is to find out what already exists online and then ask yourself some important questions.

Review your public email address(es):

  • Is each address professional?

Listen to your outgoing voicemail message:

  • Is the message professional?

Google yourself:

  • Are you comfortable with an employer or graduate school seeing what you found?

For each social networking site (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) to which you belong:

  • Would you be comfortable if an employer or graduate school were to see your profile? Photos? Groups? Comments?  Friends’ comments? Friends’ profiles?
  • Are you tagged in any photos online?  Would you want a potential employer or graduate school to see them?

If you’ve posted your resume online:

  • Are you comfortable with the privacy policy of each site where your resume is posted?  You may want to omit your street address and phone number for safety and privacy and use only a city, state and email address for contact information.

If you have your own website or blog:

  • Have you ever discussed a company, graduate school, faculty member interview, job, supervisor, etc. on your site?
  • Are you comfortable with an employer or graduate school seeing what you’ve written, posted and/or compiled?

After reviewing your online identity:

Ask yourself if you are happy with the image it presents.  If not…

Clean-up Your Online Identity

Step two is to target potential problems you’ve identified and clean them up.  Identify the easier areas to address first, like your own Facebook profile and blog, then tackle the tougher ones like contacting friends regarding the embarrassing photos in which you are tagged.  There are some pieces that are a part of the public record and can’t be removed, like police logs and newspaper articles.  If there is information on the web that you would rather employers or schools not see, you must be particularly diligent in building your brand on high traffic sites so that less flattering information will appear lower on a Google search.

Build Your Online Identity or Brand

Now that you know what’s out there, and have worked to clean up your image, you are ready to begin proactively building your brand with intentionality.

The simplest step you can take to guarantee that the first Google link with your name on it is professional is to create a LinkedIn profile.