I typically deal with companies that have to contend with negative reviews and blog posts, and which show up on a Google search about the company. Those negative websites affect their online reputation, so I help to manage the impact they will have.
But what about an individual’s online reputation?
If you’re a corporate executive, you want to make sure that anyone doing a search on you will only get a positive impression. It might be a headhunter, someone you’re interviewing with, or even your current boss who wants to see what the online world has to say about you.
Here’s what I generally find. Unless you’re a public figure or big-name celebrity, you probably won’t have any negative reviews online or a blogger spilling the dirt about you. Instead, there may be very little about you — and that can be nearly as bad as having negative postings about you.
Why? Because a prospective employer wants to know something about you — that you’re knowledgeable about the industry, active in the field, a good citizen — all the stuff you’d put on a resume. If a search on you reveals nothing about your professional activities, they may wonder whether you’re a good candidate.
To manage your online reputation, you first need to get your name out there, making sure it’s associated only with positive content. Here are some ways to do that:
1) Participate in online forums or discussions related to your field. Just remember to keep your posts professional. Avoid personal attacks, complaints about your company, or whining about your job. Constructive criticism about your field is fine, but always consider what a prospective employer would think about what you say — because once it’s posted online, it’s there forever.
2) Having a LinkedIn page is pretty much standard these days for any kind of professional. If you haven’t set one up, do so, and make sure to keep it up to date.
3) If you’re involved in charities or non-profits, see if they have a website page that includes short bios of people who contribute their time and efforts. If you’re on the board of directors of a charity, they should have this information online somewhere, so make sure that information on you is correct and up to date.
Also be aware that if you donate to political organizations, that can show up on a search about you — even if the donation was ten years ago.
4) Your own blog site. This takes a bit more work, and it’s not for everybody. But if you’re knowledgeable about your field, you can set up a blog site relatively easily using a product like WordPress. You’ll naturally make sure to include your name on the site and only write posts you’d want a prospective employer to read.
5) Finally, monitor yourself in the search engines. It’s not vain to Google yourself if you’re concerned about maintaining a good online reputation. Once a month or so should be enough for a regular “checkup” on your online health.