In most of the developed world, a significant part of professional networking is done online. There are a variety of apps, social media sites, and other channels that you can use to build your reputation. With so many channels of access for potential employers, colleagues, and friends, it’s important to be intentional about how your online actions portray you. When it comes to your career, you want that reputation to be trustworthy and professional.
These days’ potential employers or colleagues will certainly check your background on the internet. Your online information shapes their opinions and perceptions of you, personally as well as professionally.
There are several ways you can manage the internet’s effect on your reputation, while still maintaining a private side for your friends and close associates.
1. Do a search on yourself. If you find posts that are damaging, try to get them removed or suppressed.
2. Use the privacy settings that Facebook and other sites provide to ensure that your personal posts are not accessible to the public. Techlicious has this guide to facebook privacy settings that may be helpful.
3. Visit your social profiles regularly to delete anything that could be considered offensive or embarrassing.
Here are some other areas of consideration regarding your online reputation:
Defamation of Character
In addition to reputation-damaging content that you post, the internet could potentially be a hotbed for third-party material that casts you in a false or damaging light. Defamation is the legal term for making false statements that damage someone else's reputation. When it’s written it’s called libel; when it’s spoken it’s called slander. It’s not a crime in most jurisdictions, but offenders could potentially be held civilly liable. Internet defamation law is still new and varies from country to country. Some European countries provide for a “right to be forgotten” which legally compels search engines and social media sites to remove all mention of an individual upon request. In the United States, Google won't remove defamatory content without a court order.
Millions of professional people use LinkedIn to maintain a profile. You should view this as an extended resume - your opportunity to sell yourself.
Always provide a photo people can relate to. Be sure it's a recent photo. It doesn't have to be formal business attire, but anything unprofessional (sexy clothing, sunglasses, band T-shirts, and any garb that suggests unprofessional qualities) is going to hurt you.
Photos taken at a nightclub, beach, or poolside have the same negative effect. Use a photo that's taken in a business or academic environment, or has a neutral background. If you don't have one yet, a selfie or no photo at all is better than posting one that sends the wrong message.
There are also forums and discussion groups you can join on LinkedIn. Just watch what you say. Be professional, even when others are not, and try to have something genuinely insightful and informative to say. Here’s a list of 20 Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn Etiquette that will be helpful whether you are a seasoned user or new to the network.
When trying to break in or strengthen connections in an industry or circle, consider starting a blog on a relevant topic. You can get a free blog or host your own for a few dollars a month. Articles on the latest technology, or innovative techniques and ideas could cement your status as an authority. Consider guest posting on established blogs.
Networking is a strategy. Try to make connections that are relevant to your career, industry, chief interests, and goals. Have an open mind, learn how to interact in appropriate way, and always give before you expect to receive. Professional relationships are like a garden – they take a lot of investment in trust equity up front before the harvest comes. Be a giver and a gardener in your professional community, and the harvest will come!