When was the last time you googled yourself? If it’s been a while, try it now. Depending on how common your name is, results may vary. But here’s what you can—and should, experts say—be doing to separate yourself from all your doppelnamers (yes, I did just make that up).
When I was a teenager, parents and teachers hammered into us that the internet is permanent—consider anything you post to be etched into time forever, even if you delete it later. Future employers might see those photos of you drinking before prom or using a curse word to describe your boss.
Fast forward 10 years and we’re just starting our careers. Some people have taken “the internet is forever” mantra to heart—they’ve worked hard to leave nary a trace of themselves online, perhaps creating social accounts under fake names or eschewing them all together.
While there are certainly real reasons to want to protect your privacy online, being absent from the internet probably isn’t a great idea for your career.
“If you’re looking for a job, you want to be as visible as possible and in as many places as possible,” said staffing consultant Abby Kohut of Absolutely Abby. “So being not on Google is a very big detriment if you’re looking for a job. … Even if you have a job it would be nice for a recruiter to find you out of nowhere and offer you more money.”
According to Morgan, “being ungoogleable in 2018 is a hard thing to achieve.” If you were to look yourself up now you’d probably find at least a mention of your name from high school or college in the local paper, or a reference to you on the website of an old workplace, Morgan said.
Or worse. If you’ve appeared in your local paper’s police blotter, it’s likely online, and it’s not going anywhere, she said.
The only way to deal with it is to get ahead of it.
“So much of that (information) is being pulled from things we can’t control,” she said. “The only way you can beat out that is to publish content you own (and) drive that stuff to the second or third page” of Google results.
According to a Jobvite survey, a whopping 93 percent of employers vet job candidates on LinkedIn before an interview. And you’re much more likely to land that interview if you have an online presence, including a well-curated LinkedIn profile, said Hannah Morgan, job search strategist and Career Sherpa founder.
If a hiring manager is considering the resumes of three candidates and finds that one of them has zero information about themselves online, that manager is likely going to call in one of the two who do, Morgan pointed out.
“If somebody can’t find anything about you, they’re less likely to call you,” she said.
Being absent from the internet might even be a little suspicious to some hiring managers, depending on their preferences.
“It probably sends up red flags to some hiring managers if there’s nothing on the internet about you now, just with the prevalence of social media, especially with the younger generation,” said Jessica Hernandez, president of CEO of Great Resumes Fast.
The experts agreed: A good LinkedIn profile is the single most important thing a job seeker can have on the internet. If you do nothing else, go make or edit your profile on the professional networking site.
What should your LinkedIn profile look like? Well, it shouldn’t be a regurgitation of your resume. If a potential employer is looking at your profile, it’s likely they’ve already seen your resume. They’re there to learn more about you.
“Employers say that without a doubt that’s where they go to find out more information,” Hernandez said. “What additional details are in your profile that tell them who you are?”
On your profile, fill out the awards and volunteering sections. If it’s appropriate for your field of work, indicate what organizations you’re affiliated with and what causes you’re passionate about. Add photos of projects you’ve done, whether at past jobs or in college. Link to publications you’ve been published in. Blog about things you’ve learned on the job, or about what you’ve been working on. Basically, beef up your profile with the very best of you.
And if you don’t have any recommendations—paragraph-long testimonials about your skills and personality—ask coworkers or past bosses if they’d write one for you, Kohut said. Employers are reading them.
Having a work- or industry-related Twitter account is also a plus, she said. But if your Twitter account is completely unrelated to your career or you rarely update it, don’t link it to your job applications or your professional materials.
Another smart thing to do is make yourself a website. Use an easy-to-use website builder like Wix or WordPress to get you started.
The more creative of a field you’re in, the more important it is for you to have a professional website, Hernandez said. Use it to display your portfolio—your designs or writing samples—and testimonials about the good work you’ve done.
But even if you don’t work in the creative sphere, a website can be a boon. If you have a professional blog, Hernandez said, you can become a subject-matter expert.
“I’ve heard of a ton of people who have gotten job offers that way,” she said. “They were just talking about what they love, writing about it…, and they were contacted for offers.”
Kohut cautioned against hiring a professional web developer to build your site for you.
“I think your site should be the best you can do,” she said. “If you get someone else to do it for you, and you get hired because of it and you can’t produce the same quality of work,” that’s a problem.
“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go take classes on how to make it better, but it really should be your own work.”
So, if you’re going to branch out into beefing up your online presence—either on social media or a website of your own—what’s a good rule of thumb? For the most part, “keep it professional, keep it about your career story and not your personal life, especially on LinkedIn,” Hernandez said.
Some positive personal information is great to share, she added. Passions or hobbies that give you dimension as an individual are worth putting on the internet—they can give hints to how you’d fit into a workplace’s culture. That’s where the line gets a little more blurry.
“For instance, for me, teaching has been a lifelong passion,” Hernandez said. “Something like that you can share… It’s still kept in that professional framework. You’re not sharing about partying on Friday night, or drinking or saying anything negatively about your boss. That’s where you cross the line.”
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.