Protecting Your Digital Identity
If you have a social media presence, personal profiles on public websites, or have engaged in conversations online, you have a digital identity. What’s more, that digital identity might not be fully representative of who you actually are. The last thing you want is a prospective employer finding posts from college or mistaking you for someone else after a quick Google search.
To resolve these issues and stay mindful of how you are perceived online, you should take several important steps to not only monitor your digital identity but fix problems when they occur.
How Your Digital Identity is Formed
Identity is a reflection of the credentials that those in your community vouch for. If you apply for a loan, you use identity credentials supplied by the government, your credit history backed by the banks, and may even have a co-signer who supports your efforts financially. When you research a new plumber or electrician, you’re much more likely to hire someone who has been vouched for by colleagues or friends.
The same is true for you. Your identity, while impermanent and often imperiled by identity thieves and the poor security habits of large corporations, is made up of government backed IDs and certifications as much as it is the kind words and recommendations of those you’ve worked with and known your entire life.
But a digital identity is a somewhat amorphous entity. You can include references in a resume that vouch for your claims, but what if a criminal with the same name as you appears atop Google searches or someone has actively written negative comments on profiles linked to your name? In a digital age, these are as much a part of your identity as any piece of paper or phone call.
The things that make up your digital identity include:
- Social media profiles like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and SlideShare
- Old profiles you may have forgotten about – yes, that MySpace page from college could still be floating around
- Content from people with the same name as you – this cannot be actively removed, but you can augment your own content to be more prominent
- Newspaper articles and stories that reference or link to you in some way
- Blog posts or articles you have personally written, either professionally or as part of a hobby
Any time you put your name out there, it becomes a piece in the puzzle that is your digital identity, so it’s important to be careful.
How Does Your Digital Image Impact Your Professional Life?
On one hand, a strong digital presence can have a positive impact on your professional life. If someone Googles you and finds 2-3 pages of results that tout your skills as a communicator, member of the community, and a professional image, it will only help solidify the claims you’ve made on your resume and may even attract new attention unsolicited.
If, however, your digital image is a muddied mess, with negative articles about other people, links to old content you don’t want people to see, and unprofessional activities you’ve been part of, it can hurt. Should it? Probably not – after all, we all do silly things in college and have fun in our free time, but it being publicly visible is often enough to tilt decision makers in the opposite direction.
How to Correct A Mislabeled or Incorrect Digital Identity
If your name is bringing up information about someone else that makes you look bad, there are several things you can do. To start:
- Control Who Has Your Contact Information – You can start to collect a list of who has your contact information and even unenroll from those lists using unenroll.me.
- Build New Profiles – Profiles on strong performing sites like the social media platforms listed above can push down other listings. The more you post to these platforms, the more they will impact the rankings.
- Buy Your Domain Name – If available, buy your name as a domain name and build a personal site to host your resume and any writing you want to share.
- Manage the Top Listings – Manage the top listings for your name by including as much information as possible so people are less likely to dig deeper. There are several tools designed for reputation management of businesses, like BirdEye or Podium if you have a large volume of online interaction that you find difficult to manually oversee.
If you believe that incorrect information is displaying for your name, you can reach out to the website that displays it, but keep in mind that proving someone else doesn’t have the same name as you is difficult and many sites don’t have clear protocols for addressing the issue.
By presenting a larger volume of good information about yourself, not only do you drown out the bad and put it out of context, but you can greatly improve the impression people get of you when they do search.