College can be a fun, carefree time in your life, where you can pursue both academic and career interests, and savor the independence of being away from home for the first time. In anticipation of the “next step” and starting a professional career, it’s also time to start building a professional reputation, and learning how to protect yourself from the inherent dangers of the online world.
Here are some immediate suggestions:
(1) Set up Google alerts for your name: You can protect yourself by quickly learning when any new listing for your name is added. You can set this up easily by entering your name into the search bar, click on news, then scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on create alert. An email will be sent to you when Google adds a new listing that includes your name.
(2) Clean up your other social media accounts: As Buffalo Bills rookie Quarterback Josh Allen learned the hard way, old posts can come back to haunt you! We recommend going through your social media platforms at least once a year and reviewing old posts. Delete anything that might not have aged well, or could even potentially be deemed controversial.
At the same time, think about social media content that paints your personal brand in a positive light. Don’t be afraid to post great shots of your family, friends, pets etc. Great photography and positive content can definitely be an asset for you.
As a litmus test for what to post: Think about a potential boss at your dream job. If she/he would appreciate or approve the content – go ahead and post it. If there’s even a hint of doubt here – forget it.
(3) Consider taking a new headshot: Make the investment in using a professional photographer if you can pull it off. First impressions are critical, and the right photographer can make a big difference. You can use it on your personal website and LinkedIn profile (See below).
(4) Do something with video: Video now offers all of us the opportunity to tell our story in creative ways, in the same way that big brands spend millions of dollars on thirty-second commercials. Think about that for a second – we can now make our own commercials – and tell our own brand stories in a fun, compelling way! Statistics show that people are much more likely to watch a video than read text. Don’t be left behind here. Think about a video presence for your personal brand – and have some fun with it in the process! Set up your own YouTube Channel and build/cultivate it with content that enhances your image.
(5) Create a Personal Website
Speaking of your personal brand, a website is your opportunity to draw attention to your accomplishments to date. Many students worry that they don’t have enough substance here. The reality: Most, if not all of you have A LOT to put down. You should always include:
A professional headshot: Nothing enhances your reputation more than a great headshot. It makes an amazing first impression. It should always be featured on the homepage, above the fold.
Your resume for download: Save potential employers the step of having to ask you for it, and make it easy to access/download.
Links to your social media properties: The beauty of this is that it helps you control the narrative by bringing people to areas where YOU, and not anyone else, can tell your story, and you hold all the cards.
A personal touch: If you have some great family photos that you want to post, here is a great opportunity to do so. If you have privacy/security concerns (A huge topic in and of itself), that’s understood. Don’t stress it. You can still have fun in this area; perhaps you offer a list of your top ten movies, books, or restaurants. There are lots of possibilities here.
Blog posts: You can showcase your expertise in any given area, or simply write about a hobby, or a topic that you are truly passionate about. From a search engine optimization (SEO) standpoint, search engines like Google favor sites that consistently post fresh, new, engaging content, and this will definitely help your site rank.
Video:A video page will definitely help your site rank, and offers great content! We should note that you do not have to use professionally shot video – a phone will do just fine. There are many different content possibilities here, and you can have a lot of fun with this.
(6) Avoid Politics on social media: College students are very active politically, and need an outlet to voice an opinion. Here’s the reason behind our plea for you to stop posting political opinions on social media: Voicing strong support for a political side immediately alienates you from 30-50% of others who go the other way. Stop and think about that for a second. Is it really worth it?
(7) Get on LinkedIn: An optimized LinkedIn profile ranks very high in search engine results. Let’s say someone is looking to learn more about you for an internship – if you have a high-ranking profile, with a creative summary at the top, a nice header image, a clean, crisp, up-to-date headshot, video, recommendations, and details about your accomplishments, there’s a good chance that you’ve given the person looking to learn about you everything he/she needs.
If there’s a single message to convey here, it’s that NOW is the time to not only consistently stay on top of and monitor your online reputation, but also take the preliminary steps towards building a strong, positive professional reputation. Don’t worry if anything negative should happen, because invariably it might – there are always remedies to fix a given situation.