Let’s face it, we’ve all done things we’d prefer to keep private — from embarrassing 6th grade photos of your “awkward stage”, to that crazy weekend that really should NOT be documented. You know, what I mean, the kind of stuff you want to take to the grave with you.
The Internet offers many amazing opportunities, but the reality is, it can also take them away. Have you ever tried to Google yourself? You should! It’s not just a vanity thing. Today, investigating yourself online is what we like to call an ONLINE AUDIT.
Think about this. You’re in the process of just launching or building your career. Maybe you’re in your own business, or the officer of an organization. Maybe you’re in the midst of pitching yourself as an applicant against a sea of others eager for the same opportunity. When you’re looking to learn more about someone, you look for them online, right? Well, so do most people!
What do others find when they search for you?
NOTHING TURNS UP
If I Google someone and nothing comes up, my first thought is “haven’t they done anything notable in their lives?” At very least, I expect to see some type of an online profile (business or social) that says they’re engaged in the outside world. If they’ve reached a certain level of success, I assume I’ll find a bio, a Web site, or something that acknowledges their career, or journey so far. Finding nothing doesn’t really say nothing. In some instances, it actually says a lot.
STRICTLY SOCIAL or SCARY STUFF
I don’t think we need to go into too much detail here, but anything that could possibly be construed as inappropriate, rude, mean, indecent, incriminating, or in poor taste can become a big problem for you. It’s not just your friends who can see this stuff (unless your profiles are set on private, but even that is no guarantee). People lose important opportunities and potential relationships every day because of what others find when they “search” them. If you’re not sure how others may interpret something about you, share it with some close friends to get their impressions. When you find something inappropriate, pull it down, and ask your friends to remove it from their profile as well. Write to companies that post information on you that’s too personal or erroneous. Clear the record. Make a real effort to clean up your online image.
What you want people to find online is information about your PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY. Who are you and what have you accomplished? What are your aspirations? What do you really want employees, your employer, colleagues, educators, mentors, big contacts, and even your family to know about you?
Jennifer Kushell is the author of the New York Times Bestseller Secrets of the Young & Successful: How to Get Everything You Want Without Waiting a Lifetime. As President & Co-founder of YSN, Jennifer has dedicated her life to helping young professionals and entrepreneurs in over 130 countries find success through powerful tools like the YSN Assessment.