Google yourself for goodness’ sake
If you still think it's vain to Google yourself, you're completely missing out on the first impression employers get when they search for your name.
Managing your online presence - and you do have one, I promise - is not about vanity anymore but about professional responsibility. Friends and prospective employers may not admit it, but Googling a person's name is the first thing people do when they need to learn more about you. So make sure you'll like what they'll see.
I once Googled an acquaintance's name and found her arrest record and plastered mugshot from a drunk driving offense years ago. I am sure she's not aware of it, but scores of interviewers, school admissions officers and others have definitely seen it. I saw another friend's salary history online, as well as others' addresses. I’ve seen friends’ public Twitter rants, religious cult affiliations, drunken Facebook pictures, and poses beside bongs and stripper poles.
If you were an employer, would you hire yourself based on your name's Google results? Given a choice between two qualified candidates for a job, would you hire one who fires vicious comments on the Facebook walls of commercial products or brands? Would you take a chance on someone who can’t be bothered to change their post settings so that their rant against their previous boss isn’t publicly visible?
Especially in jobs that require good written communication skills, presentable demeanor, and a positive outlook, a simple poorly-written comment may result in being passed up for your dream job.
Here are some ways to clean up your online act.
1) Bury your past.
The first three results when one Googles your name should be your personal professional website or web profile, LinkedIn, tame and boring Facebook profile, or other professional listings. All of these are easy to manufacture if you spend the time. If you are trying to hide something (say, an inflammatory comment you carelessly wrote using your real name) and you cannot delete it, bury it. Write other safe and professional comments and articles. Of course, the most diligent sleuth will find what you're hiding, but most people will stop at the first few results. You will bore them too, unless they have reason to look for dirt.
2) Create a Google alert for all versions of your name.
That way, anything that is posted about you and by you online will result in an alert sent to your email immediately. This is not an act of paranoia but of self-awareness. Taking the time to set this up makes sure that you’ll be among the first to see something that is written about you (or someone who shares your name) before everyone else does. Don’t you want to be the first to know if an embezzler or a murderer with your name is arrested?
3) Create professional versions of your social networking accounts using your real name.
Try to use a fake name (or a different version of your real name) for your personal accounts and set your Facebook so that your name is not searchable. Also, fake name or not, delete all incriminating photos in any of your accounts. If you don’t think people care about your drunken photo, your duck face, or your revealing outfit, you might be in for a surprise. If you’re considering a position where you have to deal with clients, your future boss will want to see what clients will see when they Google your name.
4) Don't overlook Google Images!
Remember my DUI friend? The reason she probably has never seen her mugshot is that it appears only on image search. You also want to know if any compromising shots of you are online, or if any obscene photographs show up during an image search of your name.
5) Be aware of social networking trends and developments.
My Luddite friend refuses to be on Facebook so his friends have set up an embarrassing fake account on his behalf. But he doesn't know about it because he refuses to even learn anything about social networking. My own name has several fake accounts created by strangers. Wouldn't you want to know if someone is using your identity?
In this age, steering clear of the internet is no longer an assurance of safety, but is actually a huge liability. Even the most basic office job requires at least a working knowledge of social networking platforms and web terminology. You are doing yourself a disservice by believing that not having an online life means you don't have an online presence. In fact, your online presence will inevitably be born and will grow and affect you whether you like it or not. Your awareness of it is not necessary. - Rappler.com
Shakira Andrea Sison is a two-time Palanca-winning essayist. She currently works in finance and spends her non-working hours finding God in subway trains. She is a veterinarian by education and was managing a retail corporation in Manila before relocating to New York in 2002. Her column appears on Thursdays. Follow her on Twitter: @shakirasison and on Facebook.com/sisonshakira.