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How to Google Proof Yourself
To Google-proof yourself means using the Google search engine to find out what's on the Internet about you. It's common knowledge that employers or professional organizations include Google searches in their background checks of job applicants and potential members. What you find out about yourself might land you a job or cost you a membership in a prestigious group. Depending on your professional or personal goals, it's well worth taking the time to Google-proof yourself.
Type your name into Google's search bar. After pressing the search button, the first page of results will appear. There will be a list of Web pages. Your name should appear in bold letters in the snippets, or descriptions, found under the title of each Web page.
Review the search results. Click on the title of the Web page where your name is located. Read the Web page to find out in what context your name appears. For instance, if you have published blogs, articles or stories on the Internet, your name should be connected to your publications. If not, your name could be in a list of names of conference attendees, or a public announcement of a business-related event or a social activity, for instance.
Develop a plan to improve your results. If your search results were lackluster at best, generate ideas to present yourself in a positive way on the Internet. One way to do that is to base the ideas on your line of work. For instance, if you are an attorney, create a website for your law firm, or write a blog for the website that relates to your law firm's speciality. A person looking for a lawyer in your particular area of practice might read it and decide to contact you. If you already have a website, swap links with someone you know so that you can generate more traffic to your site, or find someone who can promote articles that you have written.
Join professional, social, political, or religious organizations. If you Google-proofed yourself and did not find your name at all, then you have quite a bit of work to do. Consider joining organizations that you believe in that have an Internet presence and can benefit from your skills. Consider different ways you can help the organization, such as spearheading a fundraiser for charity or becoming a spokesperson for the group's causes. Ask the appropriate person in the organization whether you or someone else can post the group's activities on the website for promotional purposes. If you know someone involved with LinkedIn, an online network of professionals, ask that person if he or she would extend an invitation to you so that you can join.
Update your Internet submissions. If you maintain a website, blog or had information previously published on the Web, make sure your posts are current. This will aid job seekers in showing potential employers that they are "keeping up with the times" by remaining relevant. Updating posts will take time out of your weekly schedule, but you will always have something current for readers.
Take down damaging images or posts about you. Any current or "college days" photos on your website or your friend's website that show you using alcohol, drugs, or posing with knives or guns in a threatening manner, should be taken down immediately. If the photos or posts are on a friend's website, contact your friend and ask that the photos or posts be deleted. Also check to see if there are any photos or posts like this on your Facebook page or Twitter account. If you have linked your Facebook or Twitter page to your website, it's possible for potential employers to see other questionable photos or posts. If you find your name in a lawsuit or find libelous comments that someone has written about you, find out who is operating the website and ask that the information be taken down. If this approach does not work, set up a blog to counter the accusations against you.
Hire a professional marketer or public relations person. Depending on the severity of what you find about yourself on the Internet, and depending on whether you believe it could damage your career or personal life, consider contacting a public relations and marketing person or firm. If you feel you are not savvy enough to know how to repair any perceived damage, contacting a professional is the next best thing, if you can financially afford to do so.
Liz Cobbs has been a professional writer since 1985. She has worked as a staff reporter at "The Ann Arbor News" and "The Ypsilanti Press" newspapers, and as an assistant manager of editorial services at Eastern Michigan University. Cobbs earned a B.A. in music theory from Wayne State University and an M.A. in communication from Regent University.