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Passion and the job search in the age of Google

May 30, 2009

I used to play tennis. I was obsessed with mastering my serve. I practiced endlessly to master that movement and reduce it to one smooth motion. The end result? A solid connection that looked almost effortless, my opponent stunned, and – thanks to my preparation – my victory in the match assured.

Sure, it looked good. It looked easy. But it wasn’t. Success in anything rarely is easy, but if you prepare yourself before hand it can look easy. Heck, it can even look downright impressive.

Let’s think about finding a job. You’ve mailed in your résumé, cover letter, and – if you’re smart – letter of reference. What happens next? Your potential employer Googles you.

“But Kai,” you whisper to the monitor, “Why would they Google me!?”

I’ll tell you, friend. Because employers are finally wising up. They’ve realized that we’re being stupid and putting whatever we want online. They want to hire the best person for the job and we both know that the person your résumé claims you are, well, isn’t 100% accurate.

On May 3rd, Rachel Reuben, the Director of Web Communication and Strategic Projects at SUNY Tweeted something very scary and very exciting:

What does this mean? It means change is afoot. It means that your serve isn’t as good as you thought it was and that it’s time to break it down and see where improvement can be found.

Recently another #J412 student wrote a post on ‘Maximizing YOUR online presence.‘ They raised some excellent points:

  • Assess your online presence.
  • Register Facebook and Twitter accounts
  • Create a Search Engine Optimization strategy

Everything they suggested is great and spot on, but I think we can take it a step further. First, let’s talk about what they’ve suggested.

  • Assess your online presence

This ties back to Googling yourself. Go on. Take a moment. Google yourself. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Here, while you were gone I pulled up a copy of the Google results for my first and last name without any quotes surrounding them.

I highlighted pages I've created to 'brand' myself online in yellow!

This simple Google search pulls up a few pages. My Facebook; my personal web space / online resume; my Twitter; my tumblog (blog on Tumblr, a popular microblogging service); my LinkedIn, an interview I participated in; an article I wrote for my newspaper, The Comic Press; my old digital presence’s twitter screen name, and my personal Google profile. When an employer gets my résumé and Googles my name, they find a digital presence that I’ve worked hard to put together. It isn’t perfect – yet – but it’s getting there. I have control over what they see.

I’m not sure what the Google results for your name look like, but there are a few things you can do to start improving your online presence and digital brand:

  1. Register a LinkedIn and start using it. Or, if you already have one, start using it. 🙂
  2. Consider buying a personal domain name. I’m an advocate for http://www.firstnamelastname.com, but if that’s already taken don’t be afraid to get creative! http://www.firstnameresume.com, http://www.hirefirstnamelastname.com, and http://www.imfirstnamelastname.com are all great options that give you a start at a digital presence.
  3. Register your Google Profile.
  4. Consolidate your online brand. What is your most common screen name online? Do you contribute to discussions related to your field under that screen name? If so, is it on your résumé? What happens when you Google that? Does anything should up that you don’t want people seeing? Is your ‘other’ screen name professional?Up until last week I was ‘NinjaKai’ on a bunch of sites. Now I’m ‘KaiSDavis.’ ‘NinjaKai’ was great; I really enjoyed the screen name. But it wasn’t as professional as I wanted / needed. I decided to consolidate my online presence under the single banner of ‘KaiSDavis.’ This raises my Google results for that search string and helps me have a stronger digital presence.
  5. Participate in conversations. Twitter, blogs, comment threads, forums, interviews, email lists, google groups… The list is literally endless. Tons of options if you want to participate in conversations and, frankly, that’s the best way to go about this.

    Say you want a job in sales. But not just any sales position. You want into wine sales. You love wine. You’re passionate about it and not in that “Oh god, the wine guy is talking to me at this party, help!” way. We’re talking about a deep, burning passion where you tell 5 friends about a new Pinot Gris at a local vineyard and they all rush out and buy a bottle.If you’re that passionate about something – anything – why not talk about it online where it’s easily indexed? Find a forum where people talk about slot car racing and start earnestly talking about it because you love it. Your employer will Google you and see ‘Hey, this hoopy frood cares about something. That’s cool!” Maybe that’ll get you the job. @garyvee said it and I can’t stop believing it: It’s about passion. It’s about finding something you care about and feeling it, loving it, and living it 24/7!

Now there are a few points that I differ from my fellow author on:

  1. Registering a Facebook account is a great idea, if you fall into a very small set of people. Facebook is a ‘walled garden,’ which basically means the content is not indexed in Google, Bing, Life, or Yahoo. Which is great if you’re using Facebook to share pictures with friends. Not if you’re trying to use it for SEO to maybe get a better job. Of course, you could open up your Facebook account for the public to see, but then they get to see all of your inappropriate pictures. A better idea is to sanitize your existing Facebook account and open it up to the public for all to see. Delete those inappropriate pictures, put up a couple of nice photos, and you’re good to go*.
  2. Twitter. Ah, Twitter. Twitter was built on the idea of answering the question “What are you doing right now?” That can get boring and lead to a surplus of tweets saying “Typing on Twitter! Duh!” A more exciting idea is to answer the question “Why are you doing what you’re doing right now.” Most importantly, Twitter is about having conversations. You wouldn’t walk into a room at a party and start spamming your friends with one liners about your day, don’t do that on Twitter. Follow interesting people. Engage in conversations. Participate. If you start talking with people, you start making connections. More and more I see Twitter as a mixer or a cocktail party. A 15 minute intermission at a wonderful play. Everyone is milling about and talking about ten dozen things. Don’t stand in the corner or try to dominate a conversation. Find an ongoing conversation that you care about and start participating.
  3. Blogging is a dangerous thing. I’ve become more of a fan of a personal / professional online resume than a blog. Blogs demand content. Blogs demand an update schedule. If you start blogging three times a week and then suddenly crash down to three times a month, well, that can reflect poorly on you.If your posts are interesting, you can post infrequently and still have a large following. If your posts aren’t that interesting, you have to ask yourself why you’re blogging. Is it for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your ‘personal brand’? SEO is great, but only if it’s something positive about you that you want people to see, and maybe you don’t want your new boss to find your livejournal just quite yet! On the other hand, if you’re passionate about something, start a blog about it. It’s better to have a blog detailing your hobby that you’re passionate about than to have http://www.yournamehere.com with two posts about how passionate you are about the Internet. From 3 months ago. As the first results for your name.

One of my favorite metaphors of late is that of a garden. Let’s say you want a garden. Maybe you want to impress your friends. Maybe you want to grow vegetables to eat. Who knows! What matters is that you want a garden. Now, let’s say you start the garden one day and maintain it for a month. Then you forget about it.

Sure, you’re gonna get back to it someday and you tell your friends about how busy you are and you just don’t have the time, but you think it’s awesome that you tried gardening and it totally is a great hobby!

Then someone comes over and sees your weed covered garden. It doesn’t leave the best impression. They start to make assumptions based on that encounter, extrapolating that because you just forgot about the garden, you’d do the same with something – anything – else. A relationship. A job. Heck, even the blog that this garden is a thinly disguised metaphor for!

To be fair, the garden is more of a metaphor for your entire digital presence than just your blog. So here’s the question: is it better to have no digital presence than a messy digital presence?

Answer: Trick question. 🙂 It’s better to have a clean and well managed digital presence.

If you don’t have the time to update a blog then don’t start a blog! Set up a resume page that looks decent (feel free to email me and we can bounce ideas off of each other about what that should look like!) and leave it at that. If you’re passionate, then blog! But only blog about what you’re passionate about.

So take the time and do a ‘personal audit’ of your digital brand. Google your name. Google your nick name. Click around. Find anything awkward? Look around your Facebook and delete photos, notes, or comments that you wouldn’t want your boss to see. Take some time to start refining your digital brand, your online presence. With time, eventually it becomes easier and soon enough you look like a professional.

Love,

Kai S Davis

*A funny story: A friend set his Facebook profile to private – 100% locked down – and started applying for management jobs. He gets a friend request from a very attractive woman who claims they met at the bars a few weeks ago and she just tracked him down. Of course my friend accepts the friend request and doesn’t put her on any restricted list. She turns out to be a fake account registered by an agency one of the companies he applied to hired to screen applicants. My friend’s carefully laid plans of hiding his pictures of binge drinking / partying / smoking were thrown aside and he lost his dream job.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 30, 2009 2:23 pm

    Dear Kai,

    Well put.

    Love,

    Kai

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