To a job seeker, the Internet can sometimes seem like the wild, wild West. It often seems like there is danger at every turn. Job search scams are on the rise and there have been many reported cases of people having their online profiles hacked with detrimental consequences. From what I see, the boomers are often the most cautious about sharing information online; as a Boomer, I understand their concerns.
However, leveraging the power of the Internet and using it intelligently to create visibility for yourself to better manage your career is critical. Below are some of the mistakes I see Boomers making when managing their online identity and reputation.
1. Thinking no news is good news.
Some Boomers believe they don't need to pay attention to their online identity because there is no negative information about them online. But if a hiring manager searches for you online and can't find any information about you, that may be viewed negatively as well. According to Evan McGowan-Watson, VP of Sales and Chief Evangelist of Brand-Yourself.com, "the phrase I hear almost daily, especially among Boomers is, 'my online reputation isn't an issue because there is nothing online for employers to find.' This makes me cringe because with 75 percent of HR departments now required to research candidates online, and over half making decisions based on positive content they find, these applicants are missing out on a huge opportunity to make a lasting impression." (source: January 2010 study on online reputation-management by Cross Tab Marketing and Microsoft.)
2. Believing the Internet is a dangerous place.
Privacy tends to be important to Boomers, and the idea of sharing information in an open forum seems unnatural for many. While Boomers are right to be cautious about how much information is shared, there are ways to create an online presence without sharing information that could be collected by others and used in a negative way. Keep full dates of birth off of social networking sites and opt for just the day and month instead to protect yourself against potential identity theft. Pay close attention to your privacy settings to make intelligent decisions about what to share and not share with those outside your network.
3. Having a one-dimensional online strategy.
Many Boomers think that the only social networking site they need to pay attention to is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a must for any professional, but it's not the only way to be found online. Tools that focus on online identity such as Google Profiles and ZoomInfo and Naymz help build the number of positive online impressions for you and extend your reach and visibility across the Web.
4. Assuming Facebook is just for kids.
While it's true that Facebook started as a social networking tool for college students, it's come a long way since its launch. Most people find their jobs through people they know -- and since Facebook is based on people you know (more so than LinkedIn), it makes sense to incorporate Facebook into your online social networking strategy. That old friend from high school or your friend's friend who is in the same profession as you, may be the Facebook "friend" who can put you in touch with the right person for your next job.
5. Feeling that their industry reputation supersedes their online one.
You may have a strong reputation among those who know you; but frequently when you are looking for a new position you are reaching out to people who don't know you as well, and you may be competing against others with a more established online presence. It makes sense to cover all bases and build an outstanding online presence to match the one you have created for yourself in your professional niche.