Once your proud graduate has grown up too quickly and has left the podium with her diploma, she’s probably ready to jump into the “real world” of getting a stable job at a big company and starting a career. But we all know that the “real world” has gotten much more complicated than that. One of the biggest complications is navigating the tricky world of social media and its affects on finding a job after college. So many young people spend their teenage years posting content on the internet that can be difficult to manage when they’re going to look for a job.
In January 2012, Microsoft released a study of consumer behavior activity online. Out of more than 5,000 polled, they found that 14% of adults reported negative consequences from their online activities. Out of those 14%, 21% were fired, 16% lost out on a job, and 14% were passed over by a college.
In December 2009, Microsoft reported that 79% of hiring managers reviewed online material and 70% of them supported rejecting candidates based on this online material.
With the majority of employers checking the online reputation of graduates and job seekers, it’s more important than ever to know the message that’s being spread about your online reputation. Your online reputation is easy to check, but difficult to manage. As always prevention is the best protection, but you’ll never know how bad it is until you look. Here’s the steps to taking control of your online reputation:
Google Yourself: 42% of people in the U.S. Google themselves. While it may often be merely a form of amusement, it provides valuable insight into your online reputation. Whether you like it or not, the first page of your Google results often weighs more heavily on your reputation than the first page of your resume. To get the best view, Google yourself using private browsing mode so that your personalized results don’t affect what you see. Then set up a Google Alert for your name so that whenever a new page is published on the web with your name, you’ll be among the first to see it.
Build Your Buzz: If there’s not much about you on the web, or all the results are people with similar names, you’re in luck: all you have to do is build content and they will come. Most people who haven’t marketed themselves will be in this category. But even if there’s been some stuff posted that you don’t want associated with you, the method to improve your results is the same: create content that Google can associate with you. Sign up for LinkedIn, which is a professional networking service that is good for building positive results. It’s free and can tell potential employers about your skills, education, and employment. If you already have a LinkedIn account, simply create as much content on the web that features your name prominently, as well as any keywords you want people to associate with you. Over time these links should rise to the top.
Present Yourself Professionally: Sometimes the most damaging content about you or your recent graduate isn’t content posted by others. Typos, embarrassing photos, and revealing statuses can send warning signals to potential employers. If you don’t believe your friend circle on Facebook is the place to worry about grammar and spelling, make it private. Whenever you post something visible by potential employers, think about how it will come across to them.
The Last Resort: Sometimes you can’t always clean up the content by yourself. Many people have found themselves in this situation, usually maliciously, but sometimes passively slighted by online content. There are services for managing your internet reputation like reputation.com. However, these services are expensive.
Most problems can be solved simply by creating enough content relevant to you. Unless you’ve done something worth plastering all over the web, the content most favorable to you will usually float to the top. Just make sure there isn’t any debris floating around in there.
About The Author: Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.