We’ve all done it at one time or another. It may have been late one night when you were all alone, sitting in the dark at home with the light of your laptop the only clue that someone was still awake. Or maybe you were stuck in a hotel room, far from home, with no one there to keep you company aside from that annoying jerk in the hotel bar who forced you to grab your wine glass and change your Cobb salad order “to go.” Or maybe you’re the brazen type, and did it at work in broad daylight, taking a big chance that no one would peek over your cubicle wall or walk into your office unannounced, right at the moment of truth. Come on, admit it. You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. But how long has it been? When was the last time you Googled yourself?
Let’s back up a moment. When Google was launched in 1998, Yahoo had been around for a few years. At that point in time I was working as the Internet for Beginners Guide at About.com, but I didn’t really know anything about search engines until About had the vision to hire a Search Optimization guru in late 1999 (who now handles search for the NY Times and about half the universe). He taught us about the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and putting key search words in our titles and in our content, and the importance of ranking high in the search engines. And I’ll have to admit, we did have a little competition among the Guides in our “Computing and Internet” channel to see who would get the most hits when we put our own names in the Google, or Yahoo, or Ask.com search box. On a good day, we’d get several dozen listings and maybe take up a few pages. Gave us a little thrill to see our names up there in the Web lights. Yep, we were nerdy that way. But there was never any personal information listed. No Tweets, no LinkedIn profile, no blogs, and certainly no Facebook.
Fast forward to today, and what a difference 10 years can make! Now there are terms in our lexicon like “digital footprint,” “social media,” and well… Googling yourself. So, other than for pure ego surfing, why would you want to Google yourself? If you’re a Healthcare IT job seeker, the answer is simple. Because your potential employer is Googling you. That’s right. And guess what’s bound to appear? Every Tweet, every blog post, and yes, if you haven’t gone to great lengths to keep it private, even every Facebook photo from that college trip to Mardi Gras. You know the one I’m talking about. And while we’re talking about that trip, guess what else is likely to show up? That itty-bitty article in The Times-Picayune that details your night in New Orleans’ finest municipal accommodations after that little incident with the beads at Pat O’Briens. You don’t remember? Google does. Which is why it’s a good idea to Google yourself every now and then to ensure that your personal online brand is what you want it to be.
And if it’s not? You can remove those incriminating photos, delete Tweets, and do quite a bit to clean up your act on your own. And if you’re really in bad shape online, you can call in the professionals. Companies like Reputation Defender will help you remove, at your request,” inaccurate, inappropriate, hurtful, and slanderous information about you and your family using our proprietary in-house methodology (whatever that means – I’m picturing a virtual hitman. . . ). At any rate, of course the moral to this story is to remember that anything you post online – whether it’s a controversial comment to a blog, an old (or recent) photo of you looking quite ridiculous, or a rant against your current incompetent boss in the form of a Tweet – can be found by your next potential employer. So tread lightly with that virtual footprint if you want it to lead to a new opportunity.