Digital reputation makeovers in the age of economic uncertainty

It’s been a long held truism that Facebook and Myspace pages with pictures of drunken revelry or less than professional behaviour can be a ticking time bomb for job applicants. But with the recent downturn in the world economy, job seekers are looking for any and all advantages in a suddenly much more competitive job market, and Robert Half Technology’s Dave Willmer has some words of advice for those looking to clean up or craft their online personas.

First off, take stock. Use Google, Yahoo, and other search engines to find out what’s already out there about you online. If you’ve been on the net a long time and you’re a glutton for punishment, also check out Google’s USENET archives, which are a cesspool of flame bait, outrageous arguments, and the kind of conviction that can only be mustered by someone defending the honour of the OS/2 or Amiga platforms. Yep, it’s all there, serving no other purpose than to shame the original poster.

Half also advocates activating privacy settings, so your Facebook profile isn’t open to all and sundry, and in what would seem to be a no brainer (but isn’t), to exercise discretion online. Anyone who ever felt the eternal regret of clicking “SEND” knows this one already.

Smart networking, by focusing on business oriented sites like Zoominfo and LinkedIn, along with a focus on replying promptly and following established site protocols will go far in creating links to others who can help your career.

But there’s no reason you can’t move things in your favor by including as much info about your skill sets, qualifications and involvement in professional associations on business networking sites. And while you’re at it, participate in their forums in order to share your insights (and not, as noted above, to fight over long-dead operating systems.)

And in today’s real-time web, you can monitor the conversation yourself. Set up Google alerts on topics that concern your work, and you’ll be one step ahead of less net-savvy competitors.