What will I find?

Your online footprint – what does it say about you?

I was asked to review a CV recently.  The CV looked great, apart from a few grammatical blemishes which I gave feedback on.  But my review didn’t stop at the CV.  I went on to complete a google search, returning interesting results.  The owner of the CV had posted on a local community page recently.  The repeated back and forth comments to local residents about the topic of ‘preparing a CV’ were less than desirable, defensive and not a good look.

Our online footprint matters more than you know. If you are seriously job searching, I would be sure to decide your Personal Brand and tidy up your online presence to ensure this brand is both represented well and displayed authentically.

Know your own brand

One of my favourite NZ presenters, an author and authority on the topic of personal branding is Fiona Fenwick.  In her book Step up and Stand Out, she speaks of The Authentic You, saying “authenticity is about working out who you are and what you do best and then doing that consistently.  It is about being yourself – whatever that is. It is the opposite of fake.  That is how you build your authentic personal brand”.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to identify your values and come closer to connecting with what your authentic self looks like:

  1. What words describe the qualities of your family?
  2. What is the one thing you will not compromise on?
  3. When in life did you feel most proud of yourself?  Why?
  4. What do you feel is most important in life?  Why?
  5. What are the qualities you admire in others?
  6. Who really inspires you?  Why?

For me, the stand out values that show up when asking myself these questions are honesty and loyalty.  What I admire most in others is having the courage to stay true to their own passion and purpose.  I effortlessly made a list of people I’ve observed who have overcome adversity and followed their true passion.

Putting all of these answers together will start to give you an idea of who your authentic self is and what you stand for. Then you can check yourself out online and see if there is a match. Even better, check your last 10 emails and see if they portray the values you have just identified!

What will an online search turn up about you?

Social media is a colossal part of today’s world. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, WhatsApp; need I go on? Your personal brand includes everything you say, write, pin, post, photograph, like, share, tweet and do. All of it makes up your online footprint which can radically impact your brand and influence your reputation. You are what you post so be careful, be smart and think first.

Whether you like it or not, most of you are consistently contributing to your reputation of who you are online; a reputation that is probably more public than most of us assume.  So no matter what you do online it’s important to know what kind of trail you’re leaving, and what the flow on effects can be.

Career searching today is very different to what it was several decades ago, even one decade ago.  The general population use social media consistently and employers and recruiters make it no secret that they will go online and check you out.  Why wouldn’t they, the information is public and out there for all to see.

Many employers are performing online searches in addition to reviewing resumes and cover letters in an attempt to learn about prospective hires, including their interests, industry involvement and, more.  So, what will they find out about you? 

Use your online footprint to your advantage

When done wrong, your online footprint can be detrimental.  When done right, it can deliver a great first impression. You’re now aware that employers are following your trail, so take advantage of it. There are many ways you can leverage and show off your digital skills to land a job.  A strong online presence can be a career asset in today’s competitive job market.

Do you have a detailed, keyword rich LinkedIn profile? What other sites is your name linked to? If hiring managers are impressed by the content they find, like thought provoking commentary or links to industry articles, they may be more apt to reach out to you for an interview. It’s highly possible that your job seeking competitors are working on building their online presence.

A few guidelines are:

Think before you post:  Never put a temporary emotion on the permanent internet.  Remember my opening paragraph about the CV owner who openly showed defensiveness and anger on a community Facebook page.  Those comments linked back to his Facebook account and showed up in a google search of his name!  Think twice, post once.

Know who you want to find you: When you know which employers or kind of companies you’re targeting, then you can be purposeful in your posting of information about you that is relevant to them and will resonate with them.

Get involved in your industry:  Join online groups and contribute with valuable comments where appropriate. Don’t wait until the last minute to build online presence. It takes time for the content you post to gain traction in search engines.

Keywords are critical: Make sure you have a lot of the right keywords in the right places.

Google yourself: Take inventory of what’s out there. Search for your name every few months, so you’re aware of the information others have access to.

Set up Google alerts: Did you know you can set up a Google alert for your name. The tool will then send you occasional alerts of every post that has your name on it.

And, as for pictures! Any photo you post could be dug up some day. Limit your sharing of questionable images.  Fifteen minutes of humour is never worth a lifetime of potential humiliation.

Last Word

Ask yourself now, is there anything you’ve posted online that you wouldn’t want someone else to see, especially a recruiter or potential employer? They are highly likely to search for a candidate online before making a hiring decision. So Google yourself – regularly!

They say it takes 7 seconds for your interviewer to make a first impression.  Guess what, those first impressions are now often being made before you even walk through the door to the interview room. 

Thankfully, substance has the final word so be sure to follow up your purposeful online brand by being on time and presenting yourself appropriately.  Be yourself, have a winning smile, be open and confident, be positive, courteous and attentive.

Go well, Brenda

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