If you haven’t figured out that you are being Googled in your job search just as frequently as you are Googling your business contacts, then it is time to enter the world of modern career management. Whether you want to or not, you must develop and maintain some kind of professional online profile and recognize that people are forming opinions about you based on what they find after typing your name into a search engine.
Your own approach to online reputation management will be dependent on your career goals and personal comfort level with becoming visible online. Ideally, everyone would invest in a customized online portal for his or her personal brand (see examples). When you have your own blog or website designed, you have total control over how you present yourself. However, if you have limited time or funds, you may be wondering what you can do to establish or extend your online brand quickly and economically. Here are five free resources (some also have paid services):
1. www.Naymz.com. Think of Naymz as the 411 to your online identity. Not only can you create a profile, but you can also point people to all the other online content that you want them to see. This includes your other social media profiles (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), websites, articles and relevant links. You can upgrade your account to have Naymz buy your name in the paid search results so that you get guaranteed first page placement on the leading search engines. A paid listing can be especially helpful if you have a common name, digital dirt or are impatient to show up in the natural listings.
2. www.BusinessCard2.com. BusinessCard2 is a virtual business card that is designed to show up in your search results. In addition to a downloadable vCard with contact information, you can include a bio, recommendations and attachments such as a resume, presentations, articles and photos.
3. www.LinkedIn.com. LinkedIn is a must for every business professional, and it’s not just a networking tool. Create your profile at LinkedIn, and make it public. Chances are that you already have a LinkedIn profile, but you haven’t gotten it ready for public consumption. LinkedIn has good “Google juice,” so your public profile will typically rank high in the results when someone searches for your name. (If you have a common name, be sure to include qualifiers as keywords in your profiles. When people type your name into the search box and they get millions of results, they will begin to narrow down their search by the name of your latest employer or MBA program, your specialty, job title or location.) You can control what elements appear on the public Internet versus the content that only gets displayed to your LinkedIn contacts. Write a keyword-rich, easy-to-digest profile that showcases your value to your target audience and request endorsements from contacts that support your claims. The best way to get endorsements from people is to go ahead and endorse them. LinkedIn will prompt them to return the favor so you don’t have to. Recruiters value LinkedIn endorsements because you cannot edit them (but you can decide not to use them). Also keep in mind that the size of your network will display as part of your public profile and judgments may be made about having too many or too few connections. The right quantity for you is purely subjective, but know that the intention of LinkedIn is to connect with only those you actually know and would recommend to others in your network.
4. www.VisualCV.com. VisualCV takes having your resume online to the next level by allowing you to back up your achievements with proof of your performance. Think of it as an online, multimedia executive portfolio that is template-like in design (your site looks like all the other VisualCVs). You can upload or link to relevant content that supports your claims and also control who sees what.
5. www.Alltop.com. I strongly advocate publishing articles or posting thoughtful blog comments related to your area of expertise. Searching Alltop will help you find the websites and blogs that would be effective in reaching your target audience.
To avoid possible confusion and more work later, don’t start using any of these online identity management resources before you take the important first steps of discovering and articulating your personal brand. Ask yourself, what is my unique promise of value or value proposition, and how can I differentiate myself from others who are vying for the same opportunities? Write one compelling social networking bio that you copy and paste consistently across all of your online profiles. To make a great first impression, you will also want to get a professional headshot since people are often meeting you online before they meet you in person.