College Students – Is Your Online Reputation Helping or Hurting You?

College Students – Is Your Online Reputation Helping or Hurting You? image success1College Students – Is Your Online Reputation Helping or Hurting You?

– Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This post is the first in my new series with communications advice and social media tips for college students making the transition from campus to work. I will share the same techniques and principles I use with business leaders to help you learn how to communicate like a professional.

Getting hired is all about presenting yourself well and effectively describing who you are and what you bring to the table over and above other candidates. While you should focus efforts on meaningful and targeted in-person interactions, you also need to be mindful of your online reputation.

Most hiring managers now routinely search job applicants online. This means after they meet you or read your resume, they will type your name into Google. You want to make sure the search returns information that is consistent with your resume, cover letter and how you presented yourself in-person.

Here are 5 common mistakes that you should fix before you begin to network and apply for positions. Also, make sure to utilize your career center on campus. They are there to advise and guide you through all aspects of planning your career.

1. Search brings up damaging information.
Take time every few weeks to search your name and keywords (like your college) using all the major search engines. Delete anything that would detract from you as a professional or how you want to be perceived. Make sure your Facebook, Google+, Twitter and other media sharing sites are locked down by setting privacy levels appropriately so you shield your personal activities from the search engines.

2. Search brings up nothing.
An online search with no results could leave the impression that (1) you are hiding something or (2) you have done nothing substantial during your college years. At a minimum you should set up a LinkedIn page. Think of this as your own personal website and use it to your advantage! See #3.

3. No LinkedIn page
If you haven’t taken time to set up your LinkedIn page, set aside 30-45 minutes to establish one. Your career center on campus can help you and it’s free. Go to http://www.linkedin.com and click ‘Join Today’. Sign up for the Basic Account. Do NOT click ‘Sign up with Facebook’. You want to keep these accounts separate. Here are the areas you should complete:

  • Photo. If you don’t have a head shot in professional attire (dark suit jacket/light colored shirt/tie for men and suit jacket/conservative blouse and jewelry for women), then have a friend take one in decent lighting. You may also be able to use your formal fraternity/sorority photo or school picture.
  • Profile. Like your resume, it should be brief and focused on those skills and experiences you are ‘selling’ to employers. This means you do not list every club or job you ever had. Work with your career advisor to select the most meaningful ones. Just as you would with your resume and cover letters, proofread and fix grammatical errors and inconsistencies.
  • Connections. Search and find classmates, professors, colleagues, friends and family that you know in person and invite them to join your network. Always, always include a personal message.
  • Groups. Search and find Groups that match your interests. These could be professional associations, former employers and topical interest groups. At a minimum you should belong to the LinkedIn Groups for the companies and organizations you applying to, your college and at least one area of career interest.

4. Incomplete or unprofessional LinkedIn.
You took the time to set up a LinkedIn page but your profile picture looks like it’s from spring party weekend, you have no connections and no description in your profile. Fix this now!

5. Too much social media activity.
If you Tweet, make sure it is professional. If it isn’t, then reset the privacy settings. You can also share updates on LinkedIn, but don’t go crazy using this feature. You don’t want to give the impression you spend all your time online. Follow the same rules as with your Profile, if it supports your career goals, post the status. This can be information about a professional event you are attending, a link to a news story that featured your work or a link to an article you found interesting.

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