Matrix: Building and Managing Your Online Career Reputation (Unvarnished, LinkedIn, Blogs, and More)

In the digital world, expect your clients, new boss, and recruiters to review your online footprint.  In fact, a Microsoft study “showed that 70 percent of hiring managers have rejected candidates because of what they found on line. It’s not all bad news, though. 85 percent said they were influenced by positive online information.”  With stats like this, it’s important you develop a strategy.

As more social tools appear, you are losing control over your online reputation
Recently, I was briefed by the very controversial Unvarnished (in beta), a website where people you’ve worked with can leave anonymous comments about working with you, both good –and bad. After my discussion with the CEO and co-founder, I learned that Unvarnished has a series of checks and balances, such as: FB connect to verify IDs, human vetting of those IDs, and the a series of programs that helps to identify if someone is coming in and trolling, or actually giving fair reviews to a variety of folks. One of the interesting features was that the tool would look for reciprocation of reviews, as those that come in and review others without getting reviewed themselves would be valued less.  Despite the checks and balances, the power has shifted away from you –and to those of your peers.

Develop a strategy to build and manage your online career reputation
Despite the well thought through checks and balances, Unvarnished and other online reputation tools everyone should be conscious of how their online reputation will impact their client work, future jobs, and ultimately your bank account. We’ve seen a variety of technologies emerge for commercial reputation like Amazon rankings, eBay account, to Rapleaf. Yet to best understand how to use the different tools at your disposal for your personal career, I’ve created this handy matrix which you can use to take advantage and minimize risks.

Matrix: Building and Managing Your Online Career Reputation

Tools Control Rating and Example Opportunities Risks What no one tells you
Online Footprint You have a high degree of control. All the things you do online that are discoverable: persona blog, social media accounts (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter). Demonstrate your knowledge of your craft through thought leadership, and show how well you work with others Personal and off topic content could be misconstrued or even used against you. Those embarrassing college photos on frat row may come back to haunt you. Be proactive and develop a personal blog and own your SEO over your name –before someone else does.
Reference Submissions You have a moderate degree of control. That third page on your resume that you submit to hiring manager and recruiters. Chances are, these are solid references you’ve worked with the past that will vouch for you over the phone or in writing Not fully believable, since these were vetted, coached and pre selected This is really used for confirmation that you’ve worked there. Savvy recruiters are able to find out areas of weakness, so work with your references in advance to align on where you should improve.
LinkedIn References You have a high degree of control. Vetted references on your LinkedIn profile It’s always great to have confirmation that you’ve worked with others, and see where you’re really strong Believable, but filtered by you, so for many recruiters and hiring folks this is confirmation –not an unbiased review. Careful here, this can quickly become quid pro quo, and you should be selective of who gives your references. Do this too much and you’ll look like a suck up.  I’ve limited my usage of doing it.
Unvarnished References You have a low degree of control. This controversial new site uses FB connect to verify identity but allows people to give unbiased anonymous reviews of your work. Finally, an platform for unbiased reviews, people can say what they really want about your strengths and weaknesses. Negative information will surface about you, and the more successful you are, the more likely this is to happen Unvarnished has a series of checks and balances setup to ensure reviewers are real people and have experience working with others.
Google You have a variable degree of control. Google owns reputations, and what surfaces on the top few pages on your name are key. News articles, blog posts, and wikipedia pages that discuss you will score high. Recruiters will certainly seek to find out about you, and the chance to score high with positive content are high. If someone has trashed you online expect it to surface. Lack of control of what can surface. Develop an online personal brand strategy to ensure your top results are clean. In the worst case scenario consider a name change or hire a reputation firm to help, I’m sure they’ll leave comments below.

Build a Career Strategy Around Your Online Reputation
Don’t idly stand by  for someone else to own your online reputation develop a strategy now.

  • Be proactive, you’re responsible for your own reputation. Change your mindset, you must be managing your online reputation if you choose not to participate.  Setup Google Alerts for your own namesake and that of your family members.  Recognize that there’s an incredible amount of your ‘private’ information already available through Zabasearch (which gleans public records you’ve used from mortgages, loans, and magazine subscriptions), combined with Google Maps of your home layout, and Zillow to find home value, an incredible amount of information is already out there.  For best results, use the matrix above to decide which toolset will best be used for your strategy.
  • Develop an online career strategy –be decisive.  Every time you press a keyboard key  you’re leaving a digital snail trail online.  Recognize that every online and social interaction you make is forever leaving a mark online.  Those that do so in public forums may be haunted for years or as long as the internet is available.  Be sure to educate the millennials on the impacts that their online antics have to their future careers –likely they have no idea of the ramifications as they can’t see beyond next weekend.
  • Develop tactics to minimize risk. No doubt those that climb the corporate ladder step on a few toes to get there, and those that want to develop a career or personal brand will act outlandish on occasion to get attention.  With those opportunities come risk, and those that are aggressive online will certainly have detractors.  Develop PR skills that professionals have, understand the basics of SEO, own your own namesake domain, and continue to publish on a blog for greatest results.   Those in reputation slump will likely look at online tools that defend reputations or try to clean up past mistakes, those in more dire situations will change their name.

I hope this was helpful, both to corporate web strategists, but to all professionals.  Please leave your tips below in the comments.