IF YOU’VE EVER sent an e-mail, tweeted, or even published a paper, you have an online presence. Your social media presence, or digital identity, is the sum of everything you’ve ever sent or posted online, your network of connections, and anything your colleagues and other contacts have posted about you. Many people are surprised to find out how much information is available about themselves online. Because employers use this information in their recruiting efforts, it is to your advantage to make sure your online presence presents an accurate reflection of your professional reputation.
Below are some steps you can take to manage your online image.
GATHER YOUR DATA. Start by doing a search on your name and e-mail address to see what information is out there about you. Make sure you include any variants of your name, such as nicknames and initials, that others might use in their online search.
Is the information you find accurate and current? Does it provide a positive first impression for people who are looking to know more about you? Or is there such scarce information about you that people will wonder what’s wrong with you?
If you have control over the source of the online material, you can easily correct outdated or inaccurate information. If you don’t have control over the source, you can request that the information be updated or deleted.
CREATE SOME CONTENT. Even if you correct any misinformation that you find, you don’t know where that inaccurate material has been archived, so it might continue to appear online.
Often, publishing new information, which pushes the older material down in the search engine results, is the most effective way of making the outdated information less accessible. Post constructive comments on blogs and articles, or start your own blog or Twitter feed and provide pointers to useful papers or blogs relevant to your areas of interest.
UPDATE YOUR CONTACTS. The real power of social networking is in your connections. Make it a habit to add people you meet to your online groups, and regularly download their information into your personal address book in case the data you’ve stored online is lost.
KEEP IT CURRENT. Make sure your ACS Network ( www.acs.org/network), LinkedIn, and other accounts on professional websites have the most current information about your professional experience and qualifications. Put a reminder in your calendar to refresh the information every six months, and take the opportunity to update your résumé at the same time.
You can also use online reputation management tools, such as Reppler, BrandYourself, and Google Alerts, to automatically notify you when new or potentially inappropriate content appears, so you can remove it quickly before it propagates.
Just as you build and guard your professional reputation, you must build and guard your digital reputation. For many people, including potential employers, their first impression of you will be shaped by what they find online. Make sure that what they see is a true reflection of who you are as a professional.
Get Involved In The Discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network.