If you’re looking for a job for the first time, on track for a promotion or simply growing your client and network base, what people find when they Google your name can quickly derail your efforts.
Just how important is your online presence to your career?
Plain and simple: You are going to be Googled. An estimated 75% of HR departments are required to Google candidates during the hiring process - and that’s in addition to your future colleagues, clients and business partners who will be looking you up. The info that shows up when they do search will set the tone for their first impression of who you are professionally and personally.
I talked with Patrick Ambron, cofounder and CEO of Brand Yourself, about what to look for when Googling yourself and the five most common results that can destroy your career:
"Think of the first page of your search results as a resume for your online presence. A first page filled with a beautiful personal website, active professional profiles and your most recent achievements & contributions to your industry will go a lot farther than a page with few to zero positive results about you. Worst case scenario? A first page with a negative result (or two). If you haven’t already, take a moment and Google your name to know what’s out there about you. Make sure to use incognito or private browsing to get the most accurate results."
So, what type of negative Google results should you look out for?
A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t want to show it to HR, then consider it negative. You don’t have to be a bad person or a hardened criminal to find yourself with a negative result or two showing up when people Google your name. There are 5 common types of negative results that anyone could find themselves dealing with:
1. A negative press mention or two - With so many local and industry-focused news sites, it’s easier than ever to find yourself garnering a little attention in the headlines. In the tech/startup industry, in particular, we’ve seen a few co-founders come under fire for things they have said or did in the past that resulted in some unwanted attention in the press.
2. Info about an arrest or legal mixup - If you ever had a run-in with the law or were involved in a law suit, your mugshot, arrest blotter, legal filings and any other type of public record can find its way into your search results. This means anything from a court proceeding that mentions your name to a police blotter from college for being at the wrong party at the wrong time.
3. Negative online reviews - Anonymous review sites like Yelp make it easy for anyone to vent their frustrations at you and your business (even if the reviews aren’t true). These types of sites are difficult because they include open forums you can’t control.
4. Backlash from a bad breakup - Breakups tend to bring out the worst in people and with emotions running high, you could easily find yourself dealing with some online backlash. Revenge porn is the most common, and most damaging, type of result.
5. Slanderous blog post or website - Whether you actually did something that got you on someone's bad side or just had the misfortune to cross the wrong person, you could find yourself with a slanderous blog post or even an entire website dedicated to how you did the other person wrong.
Even if YOU have avoided any of the situations mentioned above, keep in mind that there is probably more than one person with your name in the world. If you’re not actively working to create a positive online presence, you leave yourself vulnerable to someone else creating an online reputation for you - good or bad. Take it from BrandYourself’s co-founder Pete who was confused for a criminal with the same name in search results.
How do you prevent a negative result from popping up for your name? (and what do you do if you already have one)?
Obviously, the first thing is to avoid doing or posting anything that will land you in a bad position. Keep your privacy settings in check & think twice about what you share with your friends and followers. Even if you know everyone on your list, you never know if that person is going to take something you post out of context and share it with someone else.
The only long-term & effective strategy for combating any unwanted results or preventing them in the future, is to build an active, positive online presence. This involves building a personal website, professional websites, a blog, etc. and then actively maintaining them.