Managing Your Online Image

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Your online image has a strong impact on your career prospects. Keeping track of what sort of things turn up when people search for your name online is a good way to find out about things that might make a bad impression on recruiters or potential employers.

Looking over this kind of information (e.g., where your name or photos of you turn up online) is extremely important and something that you should be doing regularly.

When it comes to managing your online image there are two different kinds of information out there:

  • Information you put online yourself
  • Information that other people put online

The first kind of information is easy to control. The second kind is harder to control, but not impossible.

Managing Your Own Posts

Here are three key things to think about when putting information about yourself online:

1. Keep Your Updates Professional

When using a professional networking site, your status updates or changes to your profile should only ever be about professional things.

Posting about things related to your work or study is fine. You should never post gossip or complaints or personal opinions on a professional networking site.

2. Don’t Be Mean or Negative

Public displays of anger (the other PDA) just because you disagree with someone will not help your career.

There are ways of dealing with disagreement online in a polite and professional manner, including the use of private messages or email. Recruiters don't want to see from your profile that you like a good argument.

Check out the Don't Argue in Cyberspace page in our Web and Social Safety section for more about keeping your cool online.

3. Use Your Personal Email Address

Only use your personal email address when you're applying for jobs. Using a work email to develop your networks or apply for a job is most likely against your own company's email policy. It's also a poor reflection on your loyalty as an employee.

Managing Other People's Posts

It's a little harder to manage the information about you that other people put online, but here's some steps you can take:

1. Do a Regular Search

Do a regular search on your name and see what sites or images come up. Try using both search engines and the search tools on social media sites. Do these sites reflect the way you would like to appear to a prospective employer? If not, you should think about trying to get them removed.

2. Contact the Poster

If your name is linked to posts or images that are unprofessional, or can be found on sites that could cause a problem, try to get those posts removed or unlinked from your name.

Contact the person who made them and ask them politely to remove the tags, or the post or image itself.  When you write to them, be as polite as possible - people are more likely to help you out if you're polite. Aggression or intimidation rarely works in these situations.

3. Contact the Web Admin

If the poster won't help you, or if you can't find the poster to get in contact with, try contacting the website manager or owner to see if they'll remove your name from the site.

On social networking sites there are sometimes simple ways that you can either remove tags or set things up so that you can't be tagged without permission. Check out your privacy settings to see what you can turn up.

Lots of sites also have established ways to make a complaint - just look for a link titled something like 'help' or 'contact us'.

Keep Your Personal & Professional Profiles Separate

It's important to establish a clear difference between your professional and social networking profiles. Professional networking sites should only ever be used in a professional - not a social - context.

As well as making sure that the way you use your professional networking profiles is appropriate, it's also important to make sure that Facebook and other "social" sites are separate from your professional online profiles.

Check out your social profiles. Do you have connections with fellow workers or employers? If some of your fellow workers are also friends and they can be trusted, that's OK. If they're only acquaintances and you don't want them to know about your job searching activities, you should think about removing them.

You should also never discuss (or complain about) work-related issues on networking sites - whether they're professional or social. Besides the lack of professionalism, some organisations have social media policies that include their right to fire you if something you write on social media is against your duties and responsibilities as an employee.

Remember: even if you think you've locked your profile down, people outside your network could still see what you post.

For more about managing your online footprint, check out our Web and Social Safety pages.