Have you ever Googled your name to see what comes up? Well if you haven’t yet, you should. And not just for the fun reasons like finding out if you have the same name as a celebrity, seeing if you can even find yourself (if you have a really common name), or seeing if you share a name with ANYONE (if you have a really uncommon name). The truth is that if you plan on attending college or applying for jobs, chances are that someone from these organizations may Google your name to see if you are a prime candidate for admission and/or hire. It’s important to represent yourself in the best possible light online, and Googling your name is an important first step to see what your current online impression is.
So go to Google (or Bing/Yahoo, if you’re into that sort of thing) and type in your name. If your name is fairly common, you may need to include additional details such as your hometown, high school name, current college name, or current employer (as a former Smith, just trust me when I say that you may never find yourself without including this information).
Now go through your results. What have you found? Are you pleased with the first impression that you’re making online? More importantly, do you think that a college admissions rep, scholarship committee, or potential employer will be pleased with the first impression that you’re making online?
You will most likely find your social media pages and possibly newspaper articles. If that’s the case, it’s time to search through your social media and make sure it’s squeaky clean as well. Don’t rely on privacy settings alone when it comes to social media. If it’s posted online, there’s always a chance (no matter how small) that it can be found. Read this post to find out how you can clean up (and enhance) your social media pages. Be sure to ask your friends to not post anything unprofessional about you as well.
If you find something unprofessional and/or embarrassing about yourself on a website in which you do not personally control the content, try to get in contact with that website to see if they will remove the information. In the worst case scenario, it may be advisable to take legal action if the website administrators refuse to remove the offending information. This article from USA Today gives a bit more information on why you should Google yourself and what to do if you want to remove information posted by a third party website.
Although you may feel like no one is keeping track of your online presence, this just isn’t true. Anything that you post online (or that has been posted about you) has the potential to be seen by someone. If you know what your online ‘first impression’ is, you can start taking steps to make sure that you always put your best foot forward.