The Perils & Positives of Googling Yourself

Have you ever Googled yourself? By this point in the internet’s short but continually pervasive history, most of us have embarked on this most personal of internet searches; perhaps you covered your eyes with one hand, peeking through your fingers in fear of what might pop but with high hopes of only seeing positive (read: clean) search results.

When you do search for yourself on Google (or Bing/Yahoo, if that’s your MO), your content associated with the larger social media apps typically sit atop the first results page. Facebook just hit one billion active accounts, LinkedIn just finished a site overhaul and is focusing on international expansion while Pinterest users are on target to surpass Yahoo traffic. What does this mean for a job search?

Before answering that question, let’s first focus briefly on the population that both grew up with an omnipotent social media presence and are just now facing a real world of consequences: potential college students. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article indicating that admissions officers at the nation’s top 500 colleges and universities are increasingly turning to Facebook and Google to vet applicants. If students are receiving the “be safe with what you post” advice, the gravity of such words is that much more important for those engaged in actual job searches, post-college and beyond.

Some of your might think, “Well, I’m not exactly hitting the college bar scene; what does this have to do with me?” The answer: EVERYTHING. I suggest you Google yourself to see what pops up both generally and with your social media presence (again, these sites are usually on the top of the first search page). That said, surprising bits of information about your life can find its way into your online presence. Would you like to see a few real-life examples? Keep reading.

1) The Client with an Inappropriate Picture that “Mysteriously” Popped Up: “Emily, I don’t know how that picture got there but I was celebrating a major sales coup with colleagues and don’t even remember someone having a camera!” I have no idea where my camera is these days; my iPhone, however, never leaves my side and I know I’m not the only one who uses it in social settings. Watch out and Google yourself immediately; remove anything that you would hate for Grandma–or Mr. Bossman–to see. Contact us with any questions or concerns.

2) The Client Whose Name was the Same as a Woman Found Guilty of Murder: “This woman with my [rare] name snapped and killed her cheating husband; now, whenever people search for me, the homicidal one turns up on my otherwise squeaky-clean search page!” Sadly, this is not the only time I have had a client whose [rare] name was connected with a less-than-honorable name twin. We strategically handled both situations and can do the same for you. Google yourself immediately; the chances are low of something like this affecting you but it’s worth knowing who else has your name and if he/she has received negative attention in any way.

3) The Client with Amazing Marketing Credentials–and a Strong/Questionable Political History: “I am really involved in local politics and also hold office, but admit that my stance is pretty extreme. Can this hurt me?” In a word: YES. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, and especially in an election year, if your political leanings are public knowledge, then the word I can believe in is “Change” (as in, let’s strategically change your name’s search results). While you have likely not held public office, Google yourself immediately and see if any social media applications are tracking your political beliefs.

We have several more real-life examples of how clients’ current or prior online presence have created issues for an otherwise effective job search. As such, a member of the ReFresh Your Step team will always run a social media search on our clients; additionally, we educate all clients on the need for tightening security measures on associated profiles.

We also occasionally receive a question about if deleting social media accounts would eradicate all problems; honestly, the answer is no. Research shows that not having at least a LinkedIn account can work against you; hiring managers want to see that you have some knowledge of social media and the internet, are happiest when they know you have a profile (or three) but can’t see anything on it (because your security settings are high).

If you are concerned about your profiles, want to make sure they are properly updated, or have even searched yourself and discovered some challenges, please contact us; we have helped clients strategically handle a range of related concerns and would be happy to assist you as well. In the meantime, however, PLEASE Google yourself immediately!