By Joyce E.A. Russell - Special to the Washington Post
It is important to monitor your online identity. Perhaps the first thing you need to do is to accept that you have an online identity. While this may initially frustrate some of you, you have to recognize that this can be a good thing. There are many suggestions for managing your online identity. These are described below, including some from Ford Myers, author of Get the Job You Want Even When No One's Hiring.
-Own your name by registering a domain in your own name so that you can build a website, establish an online career portfolio or create a blog that is searchable by your name. You can start inexpensively by shopping for a deal among domain providers such as 1&1 Internet, Go Daddy or Netfirms. Make sure the site is pointing to something like a blog or information portal.
-For your career website, include your professional expertise, with the depth of your experience, credentials and accomplishments. You can include links to your articles, presentations, awards and major career achievements.
-Make sure your online information is consistent with your resume.
- Use LinkedIn, Facebook or other sites to establish a professional profile and expand your network. Remember that it may be difficult to keep two separate online identities for your professional and personal needs. Sometimes information gets mixed in together even though you think it might be private.
-Be vigilant about what you do or say that can end up on the Internet. Set up a "Google Alert" or "TweetBeep" to notify you each time your name is featured on the Internet. There are numerous other ways to check your online identity for free or you can pay for services. For a monthly fee, Reputation.com will search the Internet for information tied to your name and send you reports of what it finds.
- Periodically, review what is out there on you. Use different search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, AOL) to see what exists. View these sites from an outsider's perspective or ask someone to take a look and provide his view on how you come across online. Clean up any embarrassing photos, comments or inaccuracies.
- Keep your profiles up to date. Be in control of your branding - how you want people to see you. Check your visibility score on the Web using WebMii. If you have a blog, update it often since Google likes new material. You can also go directly to the publisher or Web site administrator if you don't like what is being said or want to have material removed.
No matter how much you personally use a computer, you have an online identity. It's time to find out what it looks like, and whether that's what you want it to be.
Joyce E.A. Russell is the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management.