Managing Your Online Presence

Posted on January 20, 2013 by

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We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.
Japanese Proverb

Something about the above proverb made me smile, and I thought it might do the same for you. In a way, life is a dance, a waltz perhaps, with lots of spinning in circles, interspersed with periods of moving forward and backwards, occasionally changing tempo or changing partners. And in the end, it’s the end. The dance is all there is.

Managing your online presenceWe should all periodically review where we’ve been and where we are going. After all, it is often said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. If a new job is in your plans, now is the time to lay the groundwork that will make it more likely. A good place to start is your on-line presence.

My first recommendation is to check yourself out on a search engine such as Google. After all, it’s pretty likely that anyone who is considering hiring you is going to do so.

When I Googled my own name about five minutes ago, I discovered that the directory site “Spoke.com” has me listed as working for a company I’ve never heard of, with a non-working telephone number. Now, if I had applied for a job and the hiring manager saw the listing, that manager would likely assume that I’d removed an unfortunate job from my résumé. If the discrepancy was mentioned to me, I’d be able to explain that I don’t know anything about the listing. But chances are, it wouldn’t be mentioned to me. Instead, the manager would simply
move on to the next candidate and I’d never know why.

I’ll deal with Spoke.com next week, and remove that posting. But the fact is, these mistakes happen, and they can be very harmful if you don’t deal with them. And it’s not only incorrect information that is harmful. Absolutely accurate information can be detrimental as well, and much of it can’t be easily removed.

I regularly receive online petitions from a left-leaning organization called “Change.org”. The petitions tend to center on social justice issues like education and poverty, and I’ve signed several of them. Imagine my surprise tonight to see that every petition I’ve signed is listed under my name, via Google. If I were applying for a job at Bank of America, I doubt they’d be happy to know I’d signed a petition against their $5.00 a month debit card fee!

What can I say about Facebook, except be careful? Sure, set your privacy settings high, but know that Facebook regularly tweaks how those settings work, and online information is never private. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. If a friend tags you on a photo from a festive night on the town, un-tag it instantly. Monitor the comments on your wall, and if in doubt, remove them. Aggregation sites continually gather online information and archive it, and the longer something remains on your page, the more likely that it will show up when you don’t want it to.

I’ve spent some time talking about what to avoid in your online presence. Now let’s talk about what to embrace.

LinkedIn is the most powerful tool there is for career building, networking, and reputation management. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn page, sign up soon and build one. Make sure that you keep it up-to-date, and review it from time to time to ensure that it remains accurate.

The beauty about LinkedIn is its wide-spread adoption. In some sectors, it seems as if everyone is on it. With a LinkedIn profile, you can get your career credentials in front of people without looking like that is what you are doing. If your boss were to find your profile on 100k jobs or The Ladders, he’d assume that you were looking for a new job. But if he saw your profile on LinkedIn, he’d think nothing of it. In fact, he might ask you to join his LinkedIn network.

To build an effective LinkedIn profile, spend some time on the site to figure out how it works. Your goal is to come up in the search results when people are looking for a person to do what you want to do. This is best achieved by using descriptive job titles in your profile rather than company-specific ones, and avoiding abbreviations and acronyms. However, no matter how thorough your profile, you still need to be connected to someone to show up in their search results. So build your connections.

The quickest way to get a lot of connections is by joining groups. Some groups accept everyone, but others require that you request membership and be approved. This is an easy process, and I recommend it. By joining groups, you will quickly and exponentially increase your number of connections, and hence the number of times your name surfaces in relation to any given search.

Look for groups that are relevant to your desired career path. Once you join the groups, read the posts. Participate in the conversations when you have something relevant to add. The more times you post a comment, the more familiar your name and job title will be to others. Keep your comments pleasant and polite, and avoid the temptation to call someone an idiot even if they are. Pay attention to the job postings, and get to know which ones are legitimate and which ones are not. If the same posting comes up every week, it is likely not.

Add personal connections and professional acquaintances to your LinkedIn network. I strongly advise that you do this by sending people a brief, personalized note rather than the LinkedIn default invitation. I like to use “I thought it would make sense to connect on LinkedIn. If you agree, please accept this invitation”. This is a bit of a softer approach than the default, and almost everyone accepts it.

Open up your contact settings to encourage people to contact you. Accept all types of messages, and be open to all opportunities. If you are comfortable with it, post your email address and/or telephone number under your contact settings, so that they show up on your profile. This will allow people who don’t know you to contact you confidentially rather than going through a shared connection.

Upload a recent photograph of yourself to your LinkedIn profile. By posting a photograph of yourself, you become a familiar face. You might be walking across conference room in Las Vegas and someone in one of your LinkedIn groups will walk up and introduce themselves, because they recognize you. At a job interview, when the hiring manager walks into the busy lobby to meet you, he or she will know who you are from your photograph and won’t have to hesitate or call your name. It isn’t a matter of whether you consider yourself attractive or not. It is matter of becoming a familiar face.

When selecting a photograph, go for a head shot, either in a studio setting, an office, or the great outdoors. Smile but don’t laugh. Look at the camera but don’t look coy or stern. Dress professionally, and make sure the attention is drawn to your face. If you want your photograph to encourage comments, you could use one taken in front of a landmark such as the White House or the Eiffel Tower. But avoid overly personal shots, such as those with kids or pets. These belong on Facebook, not on LinkedIn.

These are a few suggestions for managing your online presence. If you have others that might be of interest to me or to others, please let me know. I can be reached via email, at Daina@cardresourcegroup.com

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