Online Professional Presences – What Does The Internet Say About You?

If you’re a student, or even a professional looking for work, it’s very important to know what the Internet has to say about you.

Here’s a quick test.

Go to Google, and type in the your name in quotation marks.

Look at the first page of results.

There should be plenty of information on there which presents you in a positive light. There certainly shouldn’t be any negative information.

If you have a really common name, you might need to refine the search in a similar way to a potential employer would. Add your town, city or university to the search, or search by your email address or any online handles that you use and are easy to find.

This isn’t theoretical. Recent research showed that over 90% of employers searched for people looking for graduate jobs online before they could employ them (or, in many cases, even invite them to interview). If the information you want them to read isn’t there, then you just won’t get the professional jobs that you’re looking for.

Even more challenging?

Many employers bypass Google now and go directly to Facebook. The Facebook search options makes it very easy to find out more about candidates.

You need to treat all your socal media profiles as being in the public eye, because that’s what they are.

And, if employers can’t find out anything about you, what does that say?

To many employers, it says that you have something to hide.

To others, it’s that you just aren’t bothered about whether people can find out about you online.

Neither of those are good traits to potential employers.

 

Professional Presence Workshop

To find out more about social media, professional presences, and how these impact on employability, check out the Professional Presence Workshop at Birmingham City University. Places are free for academics interested in teaching these skills to students, but limited.

 

Your Thoughts

Do share your thoughts about the importance of an online professional presence in the comment area below.

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Article by Thomas Lancaster

I am an experienced Computer Science academic, best known for research work into academic integrity, plagiarism and contract cheating. I have held leadership positions in several universities, with specialty in student recruitment and keen interest in working in partnership with students. Please browse around the blog and the links, and feel free to leave your thoughts.
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5 Comments

  1. Jim says:

    Strange conclusion to an otherwise interesting post. I agree that is very important to manage your online reputation (your offline reputation too) but disagree with your statements (paraphrased) that “employers rush to Facebook and if your not there you have something to hide”.

    Having an online “professional” presence is one thing, I just dispute that Facebook has any part to play in that (it’s strength is keeping in touch with friends/family when the privacy settings are tightly locked down to the maximum).

    And, if employers can’t find out anything about you, what does that say?

    To many employers, it says that you have something to hide.”

    I’m still amazed that many IT literate people actively promote Facebook. They know full well that Facebook’s raison d’etre is to collect as much personal information as possible with a view to maximising their own revenue streams. Their interests are not aligned with yours!

    Given that and combine it with many privacy concerns and lax security over the years coupled with “dodgy” commercial practices (such as “sponsored stories”, putting users own profile photo’s into friends adverts in such a way to imply they are making a recommendation/endorsement etc) I always have, and will continue to avoid Facebook like the plague.

    LinkedIn is bad enough but is at least somewhat more responsive to the feelings of it’s userbase and serves a distinct purpose.

    To others, it’s that you just aren’t bothered about whether people can find out about you online

    Or perhaps it’s more that you care very much about your own personal information. Any article promoting the use of Social Media ought to carry clear advice that ne’er do wells check for personal information to “Social Engineer” their way into your accounts, their first stop is Social Media.

    Once your information is out there those genii cannot be put back in the bottle.

  2. Thanks Jim, I can see that we’re going to have some interesting discussions in Professional Practice 2 next year.

    You might have seen some of the debate this year about employers asking for Facebook passwords at interviews. I also know of several employers who check Facebook first to find out about candidates (and there’s research evidence that employers check these sites ahead of the likes of LinkedIn, or sites put forward by students).

    Interestingly enough, the point about employers expecting to find a Facebook profile was also raised by speakers other than me at the recent employability workshop. Generally, not finding one (for people of 21 or so who are graduating) usually means that the profile has been deleted, hidden, or the student is using a different name. Yes, there are rare cases where a student wouldn’t have a Facebook profile, but even then, it can be worth setting one up purely for professional contacts.

    There are certainly concerns about how the web is being taken over Facebook (for instance, the number of sites which require “log in with Facebook” to access them). And, I agree that correct use of privacy options and considering the long-term availability of information is very important. We all know of examples where people have provided too much information on social media and have had their home emptied of belongings whilst they were away. You can also see the vast amounts of money being spent now by universities attracting students using Facebook (and there are examples of businesses only advertising jobs and allowing applications through LinkedIn).

    Interesting enough, this is a topic that many staff would disagree with me about (usually not ones actively searching for jobs), but I’ve not yet had disagreement from students when I’ve taught this.

    Thomas

  3. Jim says:

    I agree that a sizeable number of 18-21’s may well have a Facebook profile, the majority perhaps.

    FB is nearly 31mil in the UK, out of a population of 63mil, although some sources say the UK population is nearer 70mil – number in employment is 29mil I believe atm. (LinkedIn is up to approx 4mil – but then it’s chasing a niche market)

    I wouldn’t encourage people to get FB, but if they asked I’d say “it’s fine for keeping in touch with friends/family (IE people you know) but set your privacy controls all the way up” (assuming they even know where the controls are!). G+ is great for finding *new* people who share interests/hobbies and LinkedIn is fine for putting up a public basic professional profile. IE the right tool for the right job.

    Using FB for presenting a professional public profile is putting lipstick on a pig (and opening Pandora’s box).

    However, how many of those FB profiles would fall into a classification of professionally presented? Not many I’d say, yet they may well be judged on that due to the expectations being built up. In some ways, that is your point in the article but I’d say it’s better for people not to start down a slippery slope with a friends & family “tool” that is really ill-suited for the purpose.

    P.S. re: 1st post – something went wrong with the blockquote tag (you probably noticed I was quoting from your article) and it wouldn’t let me edit it once posted 🙁

  4. Thanks, for pointing out the blockquote issue. I’ve edited the CSS and fixed the styling.

    I rate Google+ highly as well, but it’s not taken off (yet).

    Thomas

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