Building your online presence and developing your online reputation are two steps that are emphasized heavily for young professionals on the hunt for their first (or dream) job. Building a strong LinkedIn profile, setting up a search optimized website, and becoming more active on social media are virtually seen as rites of passage for individuals entering the job market for the first time. There’s a sense that everyone knows how important these steps are—not just to your immediate job chances, but to your long-term professional future.
The problem is that most young professionals see the steps as just that: stepping stones on the way to employment and accomplishment. As a result, for many, the steps don’t become habits. It’s not uncommon for recent graduates to spend hours upon hours working on their websites, social media platforms, blogs, and online resumes while they are searching for jobs. What happens too often, though, is that these same graduates stop working to maintain and develop their online reputations the moment their job search ends.
The First Job Whirlwind
To be fair, landing your first big-kid job can be something of a whirlwind. You are suddenly transitioning from a lifestyle built around classes, studying, and part-time jobs or internships into a life built around one full-time job. There’s a sense of raised stakes to your first job that can be overwhelming, especially if you’re expected to hit the ground running. Learning the skills and processes associated with a new position is always a little bit stressful, no matter how old and experienced you get, but it’s especially nerve-wracking when you are taking on full-time employment for the first time.
You feel the need to prove yourself. You don’t want to screw up. You want to make sure you are giving your new job 100%.
During this whirlwind period of life, it’s normal for other things to fall by the wayside. You might spend a little less time with friends for a while, or pull back on your hobbies to focus on work. If you don’t have time for those things, you probably aren’t making time to manage your online reputation.
It’s fine to take a few weeks off from blogging, being active on social media, or monitoring the Google search results for your name, you shouldn’t put those responsibilities on the back burner. A good online reputation isn’t just something you use to land your first job and then never need again. On the contrary, your online reputation will continue to impact your professional life at every turn for the years to come. As such, it is an important thing to track and maintain.
What to Do about Your Online Presence Once You Have a Job
What should you be doing about your online presence and reputation once you’ve landed your first big job?
For sanity’s sake, it might be a good idea to cool off on your internet-checking habits after you start a new position—at least for a couple of weeks. After all, your new job is going to be a key link in your professional history, and your professional history is intrinsically linked to your online reputation. Taking the time to get comfortable and grounded at work can actually qualify as a move to develop your online reputation. This statement is especially true if your job is something that is going to get your name out there on the web on a regular or semi-regular basis.
Once the dust starts to settle and you begin to feel comfortable with your new routine at work, cycle online reputation management back into your schedule. Think back to everything you were doing while you were combing the job market for new opportunities. From blog posts to website updates to tweets and Facebook posts all the way to networking with new connections on LinkedIn, start finding ways to fit best practices into your day-to-day routine.
Here are a few steps you should absolutely take once you’ve gotten comfortable at your new job:
- Update Your LinkedIn Account: You have a new job, so why not share the news? Add your new position to LinkedIn along with some bullet points about what you’re doing there. Taking this step is good for multiple reasons. First, it will link your page with the company you work for, adding the business’s logo into your work history section. Second, it will make sure your LinkedIn headline is as accurate and up-to-date as possible—an important consideration since your headline is what people will see when your profile comes up in search results. And third, it will send a notification to your connections that you landed a new job, which can bring a fun confidence-boosting round of congratulations.
- Update Your Online Resume and Website: These resources are key components of your online identity. If you let them go out of date, you are letting your online identity go out of date, too. Take the five minutes necessary to update your information on both.
- Keep Your Domain Name: If you have a website—and you should—don’t use getting a new job as a reason to stop paying the annual fee for your domain name. You might not be updating your site a whole lot right now, especially if you don’t have a blog. However, your site is still an important part of your online identity and brand. Losing it will only hurt your Google search results and make you harder to find online. Plus, domain names are so inexpensive that you should easily be able to afford the annual fee.
- Stay Active Online: Maintaining a robust presence online is important. Social media and blogging can help you land a job by building your online brand and improving your Google rankings. However, neither of these tools are exclusively job search resources. Some of the busiest and most well-established professionals in the world will tweet multiple times a day and blog multiple times a week. If you want to build yourself into an authority in your industry—something that will only help your career prospects down the line—then you need to set aside time in your schedule to maintain your online brand and interact with your followers.
Don’t forget to use monitoring tools like Google Alerts and Hootsuite, as discussed in previous entries of this series, to make day-to-day reputation building as seamless as possible.
A Long, Strange Trip
The important thing to remember about your professional life is that it’s a journey. You aren’t going to find your final destination after one job search. Instead, your professional life is going to take you on a long, strange trip that includes numerous positions, companies, bosses, managers, and colleagues. For some people, the trip even includes a complete shift of career focus!
Through all of this, your online reputation is going to be important. You might find jobs that you stay at for years—or even decades—but that doesn’t mean people are going to stop scrutinizing you. In this increasingly digital world, what you say on social media matters. What you write online—in blogs, articles, or forums—matters. What you do that gets reported—in magazines, newspapers, or on websites—matters. These things can impact your online reputation, which can affect how you are viewed in the real world.
In other words, your online reputation can play a big role in determining how people see you, whether or not they want to work with you. It’s okay to let your online reputation management shift to the back burner for a few weeks when you land your first job. After those first few weeks, it’s vital to get back in the saddle and continue building, monitoring, and doing damage control. The steps you make to preserve your online reputation today could determine the direction of your professional future. Don’t take them lightly.
Michael Klazema has been developing products for employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.