When I was asked to write about this subject back in April, no one had any idea just how big an impact the pandemic would have on our lives.
Businesses are already looking to redefine digital ways of working as staff continue to work from home. Graduates are naturally concerned that the current circumstances will severely impact career opportunities leading to greater competition in the job market*. How can we help to boost confidence amongst graduates impacted by the loss of opportunity, internships and work placements?
Effective online reputation management for those starting out on their career path is about building and maintaining trust between you and your potential employer.
Rachel Botsman, in her Ted talk, explores how the model of trust has changed historically. We began by trusting those in our local communities and that trust could be damaged or built based on our actions and reputation. As settlements grew larger, this model of trust could not scale up; living in a city, it was no longer possible to interact with every single person and our trust evolved into an institution-based model, placing our collective faith in law, government, banks and insurance.
We now live in a digital age where our lives and decisions are played out online. Institutionalised trust models have become as irrelevant today as local trust models once were. Trust is now atomised, managed and distributed by individuals to a global audience. Wherever we go, we bring our digital presence with us. For some individuals this can be a real asset, while for others it’s a hindrance.
Covid-19 has given us time to reflect and think about how we can present a trustworthy online profile of ourselves to potential employers. For graduates, this can be an exciting opportunity to develop new online strategies to help ensure that future stakeholders are engaged, impressed and inspired.
The first step is to Google your name. Are you happy with the results that appear on page one? Is there enough information about you? If you have little or no Google presence, you can be vulnerable to commentary from other sources. Google bases its opinion of you from the information fed to it. It is your right to change that perception.
Put Yourself Out There
Holding digital assets in the major ranking positions on Google page one improves the likelihood of your personal brand acting as an antidote to any negative commentary. The more positions you hold, the more you consolidate Google’s perception of you.
Google the names of prominent thought leaders in the industry that you would like to work in. Take a look at what is held in each position; A quick glance at Richard Branson’s Google page one results shows Wikipedia, Virgin website, social media accounts as well as Forbes contributor page. What could you learn from the positioning of a thought leader? Is there an industry publication that you could contribute to? There are many online blogs, websites, magazines and journals that are hungry for content. Boost your visibility by asking them how you can contribute. Build an association with a particular topic area. This indicates to Google the type of information that is relevant about you. Creating content offers you a solid digital footprint and gives you highly relevant or topical information to promote or share on your social media.
How do I find out what content publishers are looking for?
When we talk about ‘ranking’ in SEO (search engine optimisation), we refer to the relative position of a website or other web pages in the search engine results pages. For example, a natural rank in position one in Google is most desirable as users are statistically more likely to click on this. Publishers are hungry for content and keen to become the de facto resource for any subject area as high-quality, niche and high-volume output brings consistent traffic to their website. Trending topic areas can help convert new visitors to click on a website which can help to drive revenue for a publisher.
Keywords and key-phrases refer to the actual words or phrases that you input into Google search.They’re really important as they help Google understand what that content is about. If what it sees is deemed highly relevant and trustworthy then Google will rank it well and often. These keywords should therefore be embedded into the structure of any content you create. Visit the MOZ blog for the beginners guide to SEO. This shows how to integrate these words and phrases into article content to help boost the visibility and relevancy.
Pay attention to what you feed Google. If this information is not relevant, or shows several student nights out with friends, it can paint a picture of you that does not accurately represent your character. Audit your digital profile and ask those close to you to form a picture of you based on what information they find about you.
When you think about shaping your narrative, consider whether the information already out there about you is positive, neutral or negative. By developing those positive and neutral points that already exist, Google feels that it is being fed information naturally and organically and will rank those pages favourably. Highlight charity work, host a Just Giving page, create a Facebook event, blog about your volunteering work in the local community. Ensure that there is a clear link between you (this could be for example your name or a link to your LinkedIn profile) and these projects and that it is clearly visible to Google. Tweet or post on LinkedIn, write an article about what you learned from these projects. Show that you have many different facets to your personality.
Remember, the process of change is a gradual one and authenticity reigns supreme.
It takes both sustainable effort and time to make an impact. Google can take three months to adequately index content so be patient and build your profile in a natural way. If you are unsure about something you have posted, delete!
Adopt a joined-up approach across social media and websites. Try not to be everything to everyone. Focus on growing content across multiple related topics and link to each other. Opinions can change quickly on social media so regularly audit your social media presence and remove any content that you do not feel comfortable with. If the information is publicly available, revise content that needs an update in line with evolving conversations.
Life, as we are now all too well aware, can be unpredictable; make sure that your online profile is as adaptable and flexible as you are.