There is one very simple thing that many people overlook when they are interviewing for a job or even just meeting potential network connections for the first time…

Their online presence.

Think about how many times you have met someone and subsequently (or immediately!) typed their name into Google to try and find out more about that person. How many times have you done this? Probably countless times.

Googling someone has become second nature to most of us. It’s our most primal method of gathering information, and we can do it insanely quickly. With computers, iPads/Tablets, and smart phones in everyone’s pockets, we can gather tons of information about other people in a matter of seconds.

But have you ever Googled yourself? Do you know what’s out there about you? 

If you didn’t know yourself and Googled your name, what type of person would you think you were based on the first five hits in your search? More importantly, what judgments would you make about yourself based on what you find?

Think about it this way… If you have the ability to Google people you just met (or are about to meet at an event), everyone else can, too… Including recruiting and hiring managers.

The one thing that many people overlook when applying for a job is their online presence and what it says about them.

Before you even get to the interview, your prospective boss and coworkers will have Googled you and found out far more about you than what you wrote on your resume/CV. And odds are, their opinion of you will be largely based on what they find on the internet, not what you wrote on that piece of paper.

So, what will they find?

Pictures of you on Facebook? Comments you’ve made on Twitter? The number and types of followers you have on Instagram?

What do these things say about you? Does the person they find online match the person described on the piece of paper in front of them? If not, you have some work to do.

The internet is viral. Information travels exceptionally fast, and while it is a blessing that we can gather so much information so quickly, it can also be a curse.

You work hard, have long days, and stressful deadlines to meet, so it’s understandable that you may want to enjoy a night out with your friends for a few drinks. But keep in mind that there is a disproportionate number of pictures, comments, and ‘likes’ on the internet for these infrequent nights out compared to the number of hours and days spent in the lab, hard at work.

(And quite frankly if Instagram and Facebook were full of pictures of everyone sitting quietly at their desks working hard, it’d be a pretty boring social networking platform 🙂 )

Point being, it’s the nights outs, the partying, and the ‘letting loose’ that employers see, which can send the wrong impression before you even get there! In some cases, the content found on the internet can even keep you from getting an interview in the first place.

So, needless to say, it’s best to keep it in check.

This is not to say that you can’t enjoy a little fun with friends and family while you’re actively amidst a job hunt, but there are things you can do to preserve your self-image online while maintaining the lifestyle you lead:

1) Change your privacy settings.

Every social media platform gives you the ability to keep certain information private or only allow certain individuals to see it. Tighten up your privacy settings as much as you can. This not only protects your professional image, it also serves as your first level of defense from those who roam the internet and are up to no good (i.e. identity theft, criminals, stalkers, etc.)

2) Make sure your profile picture and cover photo are G-rated.

Even if you change your privacy settings such that only your ‘friends’ can see your content, non-‘friends’ can still see your profile picture and your cover photo when your profile appears in a Google search. Had a great night playing beer pong with friends? That’s wonderful… but either keep it offline or put it up as a post, so non-friends can’t see it. Do not make it your cover photo!

3) Increase your presence on LinkedIn.

Even though potential employers may not be able to snoop around on your Facebook account, they can see (even with the highest security settings) almost everything you do on LinkedIn… and… everything you don’t do on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is an excellent space in which you can bolster your resume/CV, show interest in various fields (which validates the claims on your resume/CV and proves that you actually ARE interested in the job you’ve applied for), and interact with professionals from different career paths. However, many students and social media junkies are less active on LinkedIn than their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Naturally, these accounts are more fun and may serve as a bit of a mental recess from the daily grind, but just as you foster relationships and interactions on Facebook and Instagram, it’s important to do the same on LinkedIn because this is the platform that employers can (and will) see when they Google search for you.

So, be a little more active on sites they can see. ‘Like’ or comment on an article you found on LinkedIn, endorse or interact with someone professionally on the platform, participate in a group discussion, etc. This will show that you are not just on the internet to hang out with friends, but rather, you are there for productive reasons as well.

Additionally, this will provide more positive content about you that can help drown out any negative content out there about you… it’s when people don’t find anything that makes them dig further for more. Give them something up front that will satisfy their curiosity (in a good way) and they’ll stop Google stalking you sooner than later.

4) Start a blog or a webpage.

If there’s a lot of clutter about you on the internet that doesn’t necessarily hurt you, but doesn’t really help you either, one way to increase the amount of positive content about yourself is to create it. Interested in Industry or Biotech? Start a blog that follows and writes about the latest advances. Manage your settings so that your blog can be found by search engines, and use this as a forum for potential employers to see that you are really committed to the field.

5) Take advantage of lab webpages.

If you’ve won any awards, talk to your advisor about posting these accomplishments on his/her lab webpage. Most PIs have a webpage describing their research and accolades. Additionally, many PIs love to showcase their students’ and trainees’ accomplishments because these achievements are also successes for them as a mentor. Having your recent award acknowledged on a lab webpage in a “Highlights” section is a great way to turn up another positive Google hit for you, and it also serves to validate the claims on your resume/CV. Talk to your advisor about setting up a list of lab accomplishments if he/she doesn’t already have one.

These are five simple things you can do to maintain a positive online presence.

With these small fixes, you can ensure that your future employers will not only be delighted by what they find, but it may actually fast-track your invitation for an interview. It all starts with you though… Google yourself, see what you find, and if you don’t like it, fix it!


** Google yourself. Share what you find and how you changed it for the better! **

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