July 25, 2012

Career Advice

Distinguish Yourself: Improve Your Online Image

By: Roger Custer

Your online image is very important in this day and age, especially for interns and job seekers. As much as you change your privacy settings for social media, your posts, photos, and information will be on the internet forever. You should use this to your advantage and improve your online image as much as possible.

In a job interview, you generally work hard to portray the best image you can by speaking clearly, dressing well, showing up early, thinking through answers, and showing the potential employer that you really want the job. Why do most people not behave this way online? I understand that your Facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn are not job interviews, but they will be some day, and you can improve your image by thinking about it in that manner.

Here are some tips on how to improve your online image, whether job searching or not.

1. Carefully choose the photos you upload. This applies to all social media and internet sites, including Facebook, flickr, twitter, LinkedIn, and any blogs or webpages you control. Convey the image you want with your photos – don’t let a silly shot be the first impression when a potential employer looks you up. Consider posting a professional head shot or other photo of you working that is professionally done. You don’t need to delete all of your personal photos and fun shots, but what message do they send to a potential client or employer? Put yourself in that person’s shoes.

2. Put your resume on LinkedIn exactly as it appears on your paper resume. You should customize your resume for each potential employer, but your best job experience should be listed on your LinkedIn page. Use it to highlight your key strengths. This is helpful even when not job searching because potential clients or business partners are sometimes looking for more information about you when searching your contacts.

3. Think about your posts before posting. Many of the biggest mistakes online have come from people reacting immediately to news or someone else’s post. Who can forget when Ashton Kutcher tweeted immediately about JoePa’s firing from Penn State without checking the reason? Distinguish yourself by responding quickly but intelligently.

4. If it’s negative, don’t say it. My mom taught me as a child that if its negative, I shouldn’t say it and should keep it to myself. You never know when you might regret what you post online. A few years ago, interns in my office were posting on their Facebook and twitter about how bored they were at work while simultaneously missing deadlines they were assigned. They forgot that their supervisor was their friend on Facebook and that tweets can be read by anyone! There is nothing wrong with well-thought out criticism, especially when related to public policy or in the spirit of debate, but ad hominem attacks and name-calling have no place on your online profile.

Use your online social media profile to exhibit the best parts of your life that you want to highlight. Let technology help you advance your career and distinguish yourself, not hold you back and tarnish your reputation.

Roger Custer is Executive Director of America’s Future Foundation.