We talk a lot about the risks of having a negative online image when it comes time to apply for college or look for a job. If, and that’s a big if, someone decides to Google you before offering you that thing that you want, whether it’s a scholarship, a spot in a prestigious freshman class, or a first job, your eligibility can be decided in a heartbeat if someone in power sees something that they don’t love about you.
How real is the risk? Will that person in power Google you?
- According to a Kaplan study, 29% of college admissions officers have Googled applicants, and 31% have checked Facebook or other social media sites
- According to a CareerBuilder survey, 48% of companies routinely Google candidates
We believe the real numbers are higher, but there’s no need to speculate. It is a fact that close to 100% of colleges or employers could Google you before offering you a position. That is worth noting.
With the above being said, it is a great idea to watch out for the risks, but why stop there? We encourage teens to not only make sure that there is nothing negative about them online, but to take it one step further and make sure they portray a positive image online – one that will potentially separate them from much of the rest of the field.
Here’s how to look like the ideal candidate:
Ego surf – Ego surfing, or Googling yourself, used to be something people did on a whim to see whether there is anything online that shows up. Now, there is probably a lot that shows up, especially if you have a name that is uncommon. Log out of your Google accounts and search for yourself – you’ll see what other people would see. How does it look?
Social media privacy settings – Are all your social media accounts public? If so, you need to make sure that there is nothing negative, and by that we mean things that someone who doesn’t know you could perceive as negative. If all your accounts are private, you might look like you’re hiding something, but probably not – that’s where LinkedIn comes in.
LinkedIn – In case you missed it, last year the social network for professionals welcomed high school students with open arms. Sure, most high school students don’t have much of a resume or work history, but a clean looking LinkedIn profile with your education details and career aspirations will send a positive message to just about anyone. Bonus: LinkedIn profiles rank high, and quickly, in search results.
Specialize – If you’re applying to a specialized program at a college, or for a real job, it helps if something about your online profile indicates that you really are interested in that field. Feel free to take a little bit of license here – if you’re applying for it, you’re interested. Why not say it online?
Spelling and typos – Many teens tend to be sloppy when posting online, and this is a quick turn-off for some people in high places. Try to keep anything you write on a public forum as error-free as possible.
Community efforts – If you have volunteered, or coached youth sports, or sing in the church choir, your friends may not want to hear about it online, but colleges or employers probably will. Try to work your positive extracurricular activities into your online persona.
Your online profile tells a story, even if most people don’t take the time to see what the story is. In the event that they do, it is within your power to tell them the story you want them to hear. Here’s a link to a very positive one.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.