While job hunting out and about, a shocking revelation occurred to one of my kids.
Potential managers will Google you, to see what they might find out.
It’s important, no matter your age, to manage your “personal brand” (as they sometimes call it) because of how it might affect your future employment options.
This wasn’t too much of an issue for my kids, given that they are all considerably more mature than their father and I (~smile~). Seriously, they’re the adults in our house. However, she was a little creeped out that someone did some recon on her for this potential job.
What is Personal Branding and How Does it Affect Us?
I’m not talking about being fake or presenting a perfect exterior image that doesn’t accurately reflect who you really are.
Instead, when talking about personal branding, I mean presenting to the world an accurate picture of who you are, what you are passionate about, and how you want others to perceive you.Personal Branding shows the world who you are, your passions, & how you want to be viewed. Click To Tweet
Personal branding encompasses everything to do with how you present yourself to the public, particularly online and via social media. Personal branding can also refer to how you present yourself in person too, such as what kind of impression you leave with others.Another word for personal brand management could be discretion. Click To Tweet
Another word for it, found in the Bible, would be discretion.
Why Personal Branding Might Affect Future Job Prospects
If you don’t have the discretion to manage your personal brand on social media, so to speak, they may wind up hiring you only to have you be the moron posting videos of you and your co-workers spitting into food served to customers, or some other branding/public relations nightmare, as has happened recently in the news. Some employee’s social media mismanagement on their own personal accounts could destroy a company in a moment.
There was even recently a story of some genius complaining on Twitter about starting a job, which was seen by her new manager who told her not to bother coming in. Fired before she even started…all because she lacked a little discretion on Social Media.
Even more amusing (in all the wrong ways) is a story of what happened in my daughter’s driver’s ed class. One young man excused himself to go to the restroom and wound up posting four bathroom selfies while in there. FOUR. The instructor was following him on Instagram, which is just that much worse, and how the rest of the class knew about it.
When you’re a carefree teen posting things like this online, you probably aren’t considering how this might make you look to a potential employer. I don’t think many young people (or even adults) truly consider the larger ramifications of everything you post on the internet, at any age, in any setting, even when you think it’s private….or the things others post about you, tag you in, and so forth. I know it’s something I really was feeling convicted of a few years ago, and I’m constantly working on this area.When teens post online, they aren't considering how this might look to a future boss. Click To Tweet
I’m friends with enough young people to know that if I were a manager again, as I’ve been in the past, I’d be hesitant to hire many of them based on just what they share online.
Job Seeking and Personal Brand Management for Young People
So, how can a young person, especially one that may have made a few mistakes online, better manage how they present themselves online?
Here are a few tips to share, based on some things I’ve seen lately.7 Tips for Brand Management for Young People Click To Tweet
1. Google Yourself
If others are going to Google you to see if they can find out a bit about you, why not do the same?
Google your name (your full name, then your commonly used name, any nicknames, etc.), and see what comes up.
Now, ask yourself: Does this present an accurate picture of who you really are, and how you want to be perceived to the general public, potential colleges, or potential employers? What might need to change?
I can say with some confidence that no one is immune from posting something regrettable, and there’s only been one Man who has ever lived a perfect life.
As someone who has gone through a great deal of personal and faith-related transformation over the course of my writing and art career, I feel that part of who I am is the journey from some point in the past where I was a total unloving, legalistic jerk, to the place where God has brought me to, and lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ve deleted or edited some things I’ve written in the past that make me cringe now, and that can be a good policy to have, especially for a writer.
Mostly, though, I focus on who I am, Whom I’m representing, and what I’m passionate about at my core with any public or online posts.
2. Think Before Posting
What we post, comment on, or like online reflects who we are. The problem is, it may not always be an accurate representation. It may not always reflect what we want to portray either.
This is an area that I’ve been quite convicted of over the last few years myself, because I love a good debate, but that’s not always beneficial or productive.
Before posting/commenting/liking, I try to ask myself:
(1) Is it relevant to my life and my passions?
(2) Is posting/drawing attention to this going to effect any real positive change, or is it just going to allow others to share in my anger, frustration, and irritation at the situation?
(3) Is it crude, slanderous, or otherwise nasty towards someone else?
(4) If someone only read one thing I’ve ever written online, and it was this comment, would this give them an accurate picture of who I am? Is what I’m writing/sharing an accurate reflection of who I feel I really am and how I want others to view me?
(*Ed. Note: I’m not talking about being a fake or living in the “fear of man”. I’m talking more about controlling our emotions, especially in the virtual world of the Internet. Sometimes, depending on the topic, it’s worth it, especially if it has to do with an area in which you are knowledgeable and passionate about, and this area of expertise is where you want to end up. HOWEVER, pointless bickering online, sharing memes that slander others, freaking out over controversies that you can’t control or change, etc. don’t affect any positive change.)
These simple guidelines help me to better curate what I share, and they also keep me from having one of those social media hangovers where you dread checking your notifications because you know you just pointlessly stirred up a hornets’ nest and doubled down on your arguments, and now regret it.
3. Don’t be a Drama Queen
What you might share with one or two people privately and securely vs. what you would share on a personal Facebook profile with all 200 or so of your friends (and potentially their friends too, if they read it after your friend likes or comments) are two different things.
Let me put it to you another way, again in terms of someone looking to get a job:
If you look like someone who goes through a regular cycle of extreme mania to an emotional basket case, and back again like clockwork, what does that say about you to others? Is it an accurate picture? Or how about relationships with significant others? If you and your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/spouse are constantly on the outs then back in love again, you’re not just potentially affecting how others see you but also how others see the other person.
If this regularly occurring drama was all someone knew of you, would they get an accurate picture?
Remember, it isn’t just your “Facebook friends” who potentially see this stuff. Everyone they are friends with may see it, depending on privacy settings.
If you are going through a struggle in life, it’s better to find someone locally to help you face to face (or over the phone) rather than sharing it with Facebook-land (or Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus….)
4. Act Like You Don’t Care About Your Phone (Even if you have to fake it)
While at job interviews, it shocks me how many people are on their phones while waiting. Do you know what this tells me? It says, “I can’t go a few minutes without my smartphone.” For a potential employer, it says, “I may not get through an 8-hour shift without my smartphone.”
Turn it off. Leave it in your purse or pocket. Pull it out to get important information (such as the number for a job reference), then put it right back as if you aren’t addicted to looking at a screen.
5. What Does Your Profile Picture Say About You
I know the bathroom has the biggest mirrors with which to take selfies. The part of me who went to college and took classes in graphic design, photography and a few marketing classes absolutely cringe at bathroom selfie profile pictures. Especially on LinkedIn.
You took a picture of yourself. In the john. And you’re using a picture of yourself, in the bathroom, to be the picture that represents you to the world via your profile picture.
I am sure that most people in HR departments aren’t so sure they want to hire people who represent themselves with pictures taken in the loo. Sure, if you have some of those on your private social media, that is forgivable if it’s not something you post 20 times a day, but never as your profile picture.
6. Common Names and Mistaken Identity in Personal Branding
There’s someone in our area who doesn’t pay her library fines or video return late fees, who shares a name with my daughter. She’s received parking tickets and for bounced checks too. When you google my daughter’s name, guess what comes up? Yeah, nice.
It was annoying when she was 14 and the library wouldn’t issue her a library card with that name. But as a young adult, do we want potential employers to see that? No, no, no.
So what do you do? I mean, it’s not her. But we can’t just run around with a disclaimer either.
I have a similar problem. There’s an, uh, adult film star who has a name very close to mine. I can’t change her, but I can manage my brand so that everyone is crystal clear that there’s a distinction.
I have found that one way to help with this issue is to create some online presence that gives just enough information to let anyone Googling concerning a job application know they found the right person.
I know LinkedIn is the “social media no one cares about” but for Googling someone’s name unless you have a personal website, LinkedIn usually comes up first. I doubt it would be much of a help to find a job via LinkedIn if you are a teen or young person just starting out, but it makes you look like you care about your brand to anyone Googling your name.
Decide how you want to present yourself and what skills and interests you want to highlight for the kind of work you’re hoping to get and start one. Most of it is created for business professionals, but just having something simple representing any volunteering, part-time jobs, or anything else will show some initiative.
7. Mommy Bloggers: Your Kids are Future Adults
I love to share stories about my kids. I have some great ones (both kids and amusing antidotes).
However, I have had to temper myself a bit especially as they get older, because I realized that as young adults, they are going to live not only with the personal brand, so to speak, that they’ve built for themselves, but also with whatever brand I, as a writer, may have inadvertently established for them through cute stories out of our family lore. I need to protect their privacy, their dignity, and their reputations.
In some ways, this is just a form of treating your kids with respect.
It’s bad enough when your whole extended family knows all of the stories that comprise family lore, but what happens to the adult children of mommy bloggers? The whole world is potentially in on family lore unless writers use some discretion.