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How your online profile can help shape your career and leadership options

Whether we like it or not, our online presence is often the first thing people look to when they want to get to know you. Gone are the days of really figuring somebody out just over a coffee. Before you even meet people for the first time, these days they will do an online search and make a decision about who you are before they even answer an email. So what does your online presence say about you? Is it saying what you need it to say? Does it actively work for you or hold you back?

Whether you are looking for your next job, aiming to step upwards or sideways in your current company, or just looking to build your business or get speaking opportunities, your online presence needs to reflect where you want to be, not just who you are right now. This post will start laying out how to perform an online personal audit, to see if your online presence is serving you well.

However, we do need to briefly discuss the elephant in the room. If you Google for ‘manage your online reputation’ or ‘personal online audit’, you will find lots of scary stories about why you need to check your online presence, how inaccurate information out there can hurt you, and how your college pictures will stop you getting a job. While much of this information is useful, that is not the focus of this post. While I encourage you to take care of the negative side of your online presence, I’m assuming you have this under control and I don’t want to repeat the other great resources out there on this. Instead, there are a few resources linked at the bottom to help you out if you need to work on this.

How a powerful online presence can propel you in your career or business

We all search for things on the internet these days, and prospective employers, collaborators and opportunity givers are no different. Networking is powerful and can open doors for you, particularly if you have an amazing sponsor. But the first thing most people do when they are introduced to you in person or virtually, before they offer you anything is check your background. 

Secondly, many of us are now aware that LinkedIn is a major source of job offerings. Recruiters now regularly search through the profiles on the social media network and will reach out to people that meet the specification they are after. But that means your LinkedIn profile needs to reflect who you want to be, not just who you are now. There is no value to being on LinkedIn and maintaining a profile if you just get offers for a job you know you have or are outgrowing.

“77% of recruiters surveyed have actually hired candidates through networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter”

— Excerpt from: How to Manage Your Online Reputation

Performing a personal online audit

Thankfully, your online presence is a relatively simple thing to get right. But first you need to know what is out there, and not just the things that you know about already such as your social media profiles.

So grab an electronic notepad and start thinking about what your online presence needs to look like

  1. What opportunities do you want? For example:
    1. A new job
    2. Build a side hustle
    3. Speaking opportunities
    4. Become a non-executive board member
  2. Who (people) and what (organizations/groups etc.) are your ‘ideal’ reader? What types of recruiters do you want? What types of organizations do you want? If you are business… who is your ideal client?
  3. What do you want your ideal reader to think about you?
  4. What communication style to you want to project and what do you want people to do when they find you online?
  5. Do you need a personal website in addition to social media profiles? 
  6. What social media profiles do you need to  get the opportunity you want? For example, would it be beneficial to have a Youtube account (not something many of us have personally unless it is how we are making money, or as a side hustle, but if you want to share public speaking curating your own videos then being able to share on your website and social media can be beneficial.)
  7. Think about how you can share your knowledge and story online. How can you build your personal brand to get more opportunities? How can you share your knowledge? For example, if you are an academic, you may want to focus on a researchers social media platform such as ResearchGate and highlight your most important research. Or if you are looking for an executive role you might be needing to develop your thought leadership so a blog may be useful. And remember, blogs are possible through third-party platforms such as LinkedIn and Medium, not just a dedicated website of your own.
Auditing your current online presence

Now you know what you want your online presence to look like, take a look at how it currently looks. For each step below assess if it is doing what you need, is it speaking and communicating the right messages based on what you want and who your ideal audience is? The following is a list of places to start:

  1. Social Media: Even if you have a locked-down profile: someone can see it (otherwise why are you there), so even this needs to be curated on some level. Does the profile reflect what you identified in the steps above and reflect who you want to be. Make notes of what needs to change, types of content that should be deleted and areas that you need to strengthen.
  2. Personal websites or a webpage on a business website take a look at this.
  3. Try searching for yourself. Try this both as yourself in your standard browser and in a different browser and/or an incognito window. You might be surprised about what you find! This can be harder to handle if there is third-party content up there that you have less control over.

Now you know what needs to change it is time to update the content to reflect who you want to be and where you want to go. Check back for next week’s blog where we will go into this in more detail.

Resources for managing a negative online presence

If during your audit you have found damaging/inaccurate information about you, here are some great resources for how to tackle it:

  1. https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/manage-your-online-reputation/
  2. https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/why-you-should-google-yourself-regularly-and-what-to-do-about-what-you-find-inf.html

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