When potential or current clients or employers search your name, what will they find? What impression do you leave? There’s one easy and absolutely necessary way to find out: Cyber-stalk yourself.
Even if you are still in grad school and not seeing clients in the near future, it is never too early to start caring about your professional reputation. This is not as simple as switching your social media accounts to private. When you search your name on Google or any other search engine, things from your past may come up that you may have forgotten about. And if those results show up for you, they’re like to show up for others, too. Like prospective clients. And potential employers.
I have a friend who had done a photoshoot as a favor to an aspiring photographer back in her early twenties. When she searched for herself online, those modeling pictures were among the top results. They had been posted years ago on the photographer’s old blog. The photographer hadn’t updated the blog for years, and it was still there. My friend had to contact that photographer and convince them to go through customer support for the blog’s website in order to get access back into the account, and then to remove the images. In that instance, the photographer was gracious and helpful. Not everyone is so lucky.
This reminded me of all the old accounts I have had — MySpace, LiveJournal, Tumblr, and others. Like many people, I just abandoned them when I stopped using them, leaving them public. Many of us entering mental health careers are of the age group that can be called “internet trailblazers.” We may not have realized the importance of privacy settings on those sites at the time (if privacy settings were even an option then). And of course, privacy concerns have only grown more complicated since then. Even if you don’t use Facebook yourself, Facebook knows what you do and who you work with.
Cyber-stalk with a purpose
Becoming a professional can mean walking a tightrope when it comes to social media. You still want to share with those close to you, and now you have to hold your professional reputation in mind as well. As you cyber-stalk yourself, some tips for how to maintain your privacy and professional reputation:
- Make sure all current social media accounts are set to private, where only friends or followers can see your profile. Apps such as Instagram and SnapChat have settings where all follows must be approved by you.
- Google your name in quotes and see what other accounts come up in the search results. Delete or adjust those privacy settings. This may take longer if you need to contact the sites about logging in.
- Image search your name and see if there is anyone you need to contact about deleting your pictures off of their accounts or encourage them to adjust their privacy settings (it’d be smart for them to do too!). Images on Google may take some time to disappear, even if the images have been deleted from the web sites on which those images appeared.
Want to learn more on the topic? Take our Social Media: Legal and Ethical Issues (1 hr CE) course. You’ll learn about some of the risks and benefits of social media use in a professional context. Visit the course page for complete information about CE approvals, cost, important policies, and more.