Five Steps to Managing Your Online Representation

February 25th, 2014

In the digital age, background checks go far beyond calling a previous employer for a reference. These days, employers are more likely than not to google your name and snoop into whatever comes up, be it a Facebook profile or a photo posted by your angry ex.

While this is convenient for employers, it does open each and every one of us up to libel in the form of editorials, social media posts, or blog entries, and the sad fact is that online character attacks need not be true to seriously affect your chances at landing a job.

To keep track of what’s said about you online, the first thing to do is set up a Google alert for your name. It’s simple and free. Go to Google, type in your full name, and set the search to show results under “News.” This will give you a search results page with any news item containing your name. At the bottom of that page click on the link to “Create an email alert for Your Name.” You will be prompted to enter a search query, with terms separated by commas. You should list all versions of your name that are commonly used: John Doe, Johnny Doe, J-Dog, or any other nickname you frequently use.

While it is unlikely that a potential employer will search for J-Dog, they may come across a picture of J-Dog doing something unflattering and realize that person is you – the goal is to find that picture before they do. Once you’ve set the other options, click “Create Alert” and from then on Google will email you any time one of your search terms/names is picked up on the Internet.

So what to do if you find unflattering content? If it’s a photo posted by a friend, you’re in luck. Simply un-tag yourself, or ask your friend to take that photo down. However, there may come a time when you come across something you can’t have taken down.

In that case, your best defense is a good offense. Create a personal website, start a blog, offer to write an article for a news outlet or blog that you admire. Keep your content smart and professional, and always ask editors to link back to your website, blog or LinkedIn profile. Two of the factors Google uses to sort search returns are how recent an item is and how many other sites link to it. Blanket the web with examples of your best work and those less becoming items will be pushed down onto the third or fourth page of search returns where hardly anyone looks.

Another trick is to reserve your name as a url. For under $15 a year you can reserve and then direct it to land on your website, blog, or LinkedIn page. Even if you do nothing with it, that $15 a year will prevent someone else (whose business might be less than reputable) from using it and potentially tarnishing your reputation.

Of course it goes without saying that your own social media accounts should reflect your best self. Before beginning a job search, scroll through your recent history and look at it with the eye of a Human Resources professional. Delete anything that could even remotely be misconstrued. If the task is too overwhelming, consider deleting your account entirely and starting fresh avoiding nicknames, and only connecting to people you can trust to be discrete.

While there are plenty of services that offer to manage your online reputation for a fee, you are your own best ally. Make a habit of regularly reviewing what appears online about you and deal with what you find accordingly. By doing so you increase the odds that you will be judged by your qualifications, and not by what other people are saying about you online.


Finding a Mentor, Being a Mentor

February 18th, 2014

As we move through our careers, we learn a great deal, from basic tasks to complicated strategies. Some skills come easily while others are earned through trial and error. Having a mentor can help us along the way by sharing their knowledge, and then, some day, the student becomes the master and is ready to become a mentor himself. It’s a time-honored tradition that benefits both sides.

The Benefits of Being a Mentor

Engaging with younger, less experienced professionals encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone, try new things, and explore the ideas of a new generation. By embracing that process, you are actively working to keep at the top of your game. You are more aware of emerging trends, and better prepared to adjust your strategies in the face of change. In short, you will become a more valuable employee.

If you can arrange to mentor someone in your own company, all the better. Everyone makes mistakes as they learn, and if you can help younger employees avoid common missteps, the company will benefit tremendously.

For retirees, mentoring is a way to stay engaged and social. The occasional lunch date not only allows you to pass on some of the wisdom you’ve accumulated over the course of your career, it also serves to keep you up to date on what is happening in your industry.

The Benefits of Being a Mentee

Finding a mentor can help young professionals identify what it is they don’t know. By checking in regularly with someone who has spent years working in your industry you will be better able to build a skill set precisely tailored to the career path you want to follow.

Mentors can help their protégés meet the right people to nurture their careers. As the relationship develops, mentors can become a trusted source for reference letters and behind-the-scenes support in a job hunt, putting in a good word to open doors.

How to Get Started

If you are interested in a formal internship, consider the options that are available to you. Many schools have official programs where alumni and current students can be matched up for a designated number of meetings or phone calls. Many companies also have programs for matching new hires with long-term employees.

Of course, mentorships need not be formal. Starting one can be as simple as offering to buy coffee for someone whose career you admire. One of the great things about temporary employment is that it gives you the opportunity to meet a variety of people in many different industries. When you find work you enjoy, look up the ladder to see who has done well, then make time to ask their advice. You will find that most professionals are happy to share what they’ve learned over the years.

The mentor/mentee relationship is a well-established tradition for good reason. If you haven’t yet given it a shot, consider reaching out. No matter where you are in your career, there’s always something new to learn.

Advantages of Virtual Training and How to Make the Most of it

February 11th, 2014

The business world is operating in an increasingly virtual reality. Online training in webinar-style classrooms can allow employers to connect with their team members cost-effectively, but not all online training sessions are created equal.

Consider your company’s new hire orientation. Through online training, you can have just one person who specializes in conducting all orientations. You can empower that person to work with new employees anywhere in the world without ever leaving their desk. However, simply putting your in-person presentation online won’t get you optimal results. Virtual training is different than in-person meetings. Embracing the ways in which it is unique will help you optimize this great new resource.

Keep it Interesting

When training in person, you can hold the attention of your attendees by moving around the room, but online, you have only your voice and your slides. To keep people engaged, use more slides and fill them with images, not words. You can also have more than one person presenting. Different voices, which bring with them varied speaking styles, will help keep things dynamic.

Utilize the Features of Your Platform

The three most widely used platforms for virtual training are Netsuite, Webex, and GoToMeeting. All three offer similar functionality, so you will want to explore their websites to determine which is the right choice for you, but most platforms provide a basic level of functionality that includes a whiteboard area for instructors to use, a chat section for participants to type in questions or comments, and a tool bar that allows for people to virtually raise their hands, give a thumbs up, or note that they are stepping out for a moment.

Strive for Originality

While most of the available training platforms do allow you to record your presentations, it is strongly suggested that you make each presentation live. Live trainings allow for participants to ask questions and for trainers to give the most up to date information. Recorded presentations get stale quickly and are more likely to lose the attention of their intended audiences.

Know Your Audience

While knowing your audience is good advice for any presentation, there’s one key bit of information that is specifically important to online training. Knowing what kind of device your trainees will be using will not only help you chose which platform to use (some work better on tablets or laptops), but also help you design your slides appropriately. If you know your students will be tuning in on smartphones, for instance, it would be best to keep your images large and your bullet points simple.

Online training is helping companies both large and small to save money while expanding their operations. If you ever considered making the switch to online training, take some time to investigate your options. You may find that this new virtual reality has a lot to offer.