“Google” yourself. Go ahead, do it. Yes this is the internet search version of a “selfie”, but it’s important you do this for a couple of reasons. First of all, when you are applying for a job be assured potential employers are “googling” you. If you are applying for a leadership position your future staff will be “googling” you too. You need to know what it says so you are aware of “what is out there”. The majority of us don’t have anything worthy of popping up on any search engine, never mind the behemoth that is Google, but an assumption is not the same as knowledge.
For instance, I have a client who has a very common name, akin to “John Smith”. When he “googles” himself there are less than flattering items that come up with his name on them, but none of them are about him. He knows, going into any job search or interview he needs to be prepared not only to address this concern, but proactively mention it so that if it does come up after he has spoken to the prospective employer, he has given them context. So…”google” yourself.
This is also a great way to find “dead” on-line material, like pages you may have started (WordPress, Blogger, a website in your name, etc.) and then abandoned, or half-finished profiles in Linked In and other social media sites, etc. This gives you a chance to clean these up and ensure that what an employer will find when they “google” you is what you want them to see and focus on. It can take longer than you think…especially if you have forgotten passwords to the accounts (listen to the voice of unfortunate experience!).
Like it or not we live in a society with social media. A few years past I had the shock of seeing the search results of a high profile candidate being considered for a leadership position that I was assisting an organization with filling…and no one on the search committee found it (myself included). So how did it come to light? An employee who was monitoring the meeting room bookings in Outlook saw the candidate’s name. To the employees’ credit he blushed tremendously when he confessed he was “creeping” the recruitment activity at this company, but he still felt alarmed enough to show us the results of what he found when he plugged the candidates’ name into the venerable search engine. “Google” yourself or someone else will.
Now lest you feel this discomfort is all for naught (and I am talking to those of you who tightly closed your eyes after you hit “enter” on the self-search…), there is a way to use this for good. I’m speaking to your future, that bright shining “yet to be realized” life where anything is possible. “Googling” yourself can help you here too, although it’s not going to be found in any search engine…it’s what you hope to find when you repeat this activity in the years to come. Flash forward to your retirement; you are sitting on a patio in the sunshine and decide to “google” yourself…what would you like to be reflected in the first results page after a long and rewarding career?
This is a great way to start envisioning what you want to see present at the end of your career. Maybe it is nothing specific; it could be that you’d like to see news articles focusing on your philanthropy, or a patent in your name. Perhaps you’d like a Wikipedia page (authored by someone other than yourself) highlighting your achievements or to have published a book. Whatever it is, you’ll have a better understanding of the level of influence and achievement you’d like to attain in your career and can plan from there. As Stephen Covey put it “Begin with the end in mind”. Remember, whatever gets caught in a search engine in North America is going to be there for others to see (possibly forever). That alarming information the employee found on the candidate? It was on page 17 of the search results. It is better to know, do not assume – dream and plan to keep your future bright.