Have you Googled your student’s name lately? Ever? Go ahead, take a moment. Throw in some key words if you need to, such as UMW, Eagles, or the name of their high school or perhaps a significant extracurricular activity they’ve been involved in.
Did you find anything interesting? Laudable? Alarming? Maybe nothing at all? Don’t breathe a sigh of relief and pat yourself on the back if the latter. Having no digital footprint can be seen as a negative by many employers. According to the Dayton News, in fact, “a national survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder found that more than 57 percent of employers are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online. The majority of companies will dig through social profiles but find it even more suspect if they see nothing at all.”
Following are some things you can encourage your Eagle to pursue if their social media presence is lacking, or if they need to try and “bury” anything undesirable that they cannot remove from the Internet.
- Clean up their social media if needed (remove unprofessional posts, memes, photos, etc). This article is helpful, but do remember we don’t advocate that your student entirely vanish from the Internet. If they clean things up, hopefully they will not have any negative situations crop up. For example, a couple of years ago I was looking at students on Instagram for a class that I teach. As I took a quick look at each of my students’ accounts, I was glad to see most were set to private…until I came to one with an avatar featuring her holding a large bottle of…I had to peer at it to be sure but yes…it was a large bottle of wine. That is not what you want an employer to see!
Another true story: an alum contacted me asking for help with job searching. They seemed to be coming up against multiple dead ends. I did a quick look of their Facebook and all seemed to be in order until a few random clicks took me to some profanity-laced comments that they had posted on other pages. Was this the reason they were not being hired? I can’t say, but I did tell this alum to see what they could do to remove those posts.
Sometimes you cannot remove everything unfortunate, or you may have a name in common with someone who has a criminal record. In those cases, here are a few tips
- Create a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn is “the” professional platform for students and professionals and Google will generally prioritize it. Therefore, it will be one of the first things that comes up when a prospective employer does a search. If the employer sees a great LinkedIn profile, they may not look any further, or even if they do, they’ll have this positive information to balance what may be lower in the search engine’s findings.
- Develop a professional domain. UMW has a wonderful program called Domain of Ones’ Own which allows UMW students to register their own domain name with associated web hosting space. This is a great way for students to showcase their course work, post their resume, and generally showcase their credentials. The UMW Digital Knowledge Center has tutors and provides help for students as they start and maintain their sites.
- If your student shares their name with someone who has made some poor choices in life, they can try to differentiate themselves by adding their middle name or middle initial. This is also a good strategy if their name shared in common with many other people.
If your student has any concerns about their social media presence, please encourage them to be proactive about improving the situation and to meet with one of the Career Center staff for additional help!
Mary Becelia, Career Coach, Center for Career & Professional Development