What You Need to Do to Clean Up Your Online Image
You’ve spent four (or five) blissful years hanging out with friends, partying like a rock star, and going to the occasional class. Now graduation is fast approaching and you need a job. In our increasingly technology-dependent society and a world filled with cell phone video cameras, employers are turning to the internet to learn what resumes don’t tell them-and you’d better know what the web is saying about you.
What to Do
1. Google yourself. Simply go to Google and search for yourself. Use all possible derivatives of your name. For example, if your name is Janet Katherine Smith, and your friends call you Jan, you need to Google the following list: Janet Smith, Jan Smith, Janet K. Smith, Jan K. Smith, Jan Katherine Smith. Do it with and without quotation marks. Now, if your name is more common, you’re going to have a difficult time deciphering what’s you and what’s one of the other 838,493 Jan Smiths. On the other hand, if the employer comes across a picture of your bare butt, he or she will probably assume that it’s not you. (Assuming your face is not in the picture.) Be sure to check the image and video tabs, as well.
2. Untag like it’s 1999. Next, go to Facebook and clean up. Your first step should be to change who can see your profile. Go to the privacy tab. Click profile. Now here’s where you can get creative. If your profile is clean, then you can leave it so that all of the people in your networks can view it. If not, then change it so that only your friends can view it. As for pictures and videos, I suggest setting it so that only your friends can view them. And if your friends are prone to writing dirty notes on your wall, fix that too.
Go back to the main privacy page. Next, go to search. Here you can control who can find your name on the search function and what they can see. The main thing we’re looking for on this page is the little box next to the line that reads: “Create a public search listing for me and submit it for search engine indexing.” If this box is checked, uncheck it immediately. This prevents people from finding your Facebook page using a search engine.
Back to the Privacy page one more time. If you know your potential boss has a nephew that went to your college, you can add him to the limited profile list. Here, you can select what parts of your profile you’d like him to be able to view.
Now let’s clean up your profile a bit. Remove any risqué quotes from your quotes section. Make sure your profile pic is decent. Speaking of pictures…untag, untag, untag. If there are some sketchy pictures up there, make sure you untag your name. That way, if they click to view your pictures, those won’t show up. (Unless it was you who posted the pictures in the first place.) And don’t forget your groups. If you belong to “I had a sleepover at the county jail” or “drunk sex is the best sex,” please rescind your membership. Immediately.
3. Watch out for MySpace. We were researching a professional gentleman for a lawsuit our firm was preparing for. Imagine our surprise when Googling this man, we came across his MySpace page and found he was friends with a lot of young girls. Very young girls. So young that we had to turn that investigation over to some other people. The reason for this? MySpace pages come up in search engines.
There’s an easy fix for this. You can close your account, of course. But let’s face it: MySpace profiles are just more fun to create. So what I would suggest is that you change your name. So instead of your name being Janet or Jan, change it Smittygurl85 or some other cutesy name that cannot be associated with you whatsoever.
4. Contact your friends. After MySpace and Friendster and all the social networking sites, most damaging pictures and information is located on the personal websites belonging to your friends. Contact them and have them remove those shady stories and sketchy photos from their websites, or at least your name from the captions. If you’ve somehow wound up on some paysite (Heaven forbid) contact the company and demand that they take the pictures down. (Of course, you’re going to having a lot of trouble if you’ve signed a release.)
5. Google yourself again. Do it just as before.
What If It’s Still There?
Give it some time. Often, search engines don’t clear their cache for periods up to six weeks, longer for websites that don’t change frequently. So give it some time. And pray you’ve started this clean up long enough before you begin your job search.