How To Leverage Social Networking For Professional Success

personal brand on social media sites"What's in a name?" Juliet famously asked Romeo. "That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."

Perhaps Juliet would feel differently had she lived in the age of Google.

Today, a name is not just a name. It is the gateway to a person's online image, a key component of one's personal brand. In the 21st century, a rose by any other name would lead to a different search result.

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For some, this is a blessing. "Did you mean 'Favre?' " Google will ask if you search for "Brett Farve." For others, this is a curse -- just ask all the non-celebrity Will Smiths and Kristen Stewarts.

If you're looking for a job or interested in building a successful career, then you must pay attention to the results of a Google search on your name. Recruiters, hiring managers, clients, colleagues, bosses, graduate school admissions officers and many others are checking you out online.

Fair or not, what they find will affect their opinion of you. According to a December 2009 Microsoft survey, 79 percent of United States hiring managers and job recruiters reviewed online information about job applicants. And 70 percent said that they had actually rejected a job candidate because of something they found about that person online.

The rejections may be prompted by situations where applicants have posted inappropriate material, such as party photos, on Facebook or Flickr, or tweet daily about how much they hate their boss. If you tweet daily about how much you hate your boss, this makes sense. But what if you're not doing anything inappropriate? What if someone else with your same name is doing these things?

You'd be surprised how often we hear this concern from students and recent graduates. The good news is that there are several things you can do to own your online image, even if you share ownership of your given name.

If you haven't already, find out who else shares your name online. Google your name. You need to know what other people might find -- and might associate with you -- when they search for your name.

If you find that someone who shares your name is generating negative search results, such as a criminal record or offensive blog posts, you need to take action to make sure people don't associate these things with you.

First, set up a Google Alert on your name and any common misspellings of it at This free service will send you an email whenever your name appears anywhere online. You want to be aware of anything your online doppelganger is doing in case someone asks you about it or you suspect you are being mistaken for another. This will also help you track any places that you appear online so you can draw more attention to these websites.

This brings us to the next important action: Post more positive and professional things about yourself online. The best way to overcome any negative search results (whether truly yours or owned by someone with your name) is to have more great search results about you. This includes setting up a strong professional LinkedIn profile and being consistently active on the site and setting up a professional Google profile. This also means contributing in a positive way elsewhere on the Web, such as writing book reviews on, commenting on your favorite professional blogs, or writing bylined articles for a professional association website.

Third, create a consistent online identity. Choose one version of your name and a middle initial or set of numbers or letters following your name. Use this for your LinkedIn profile, Google profile, Twitter profile and any other place you represent yourself professionally online. For instance, if your name is Jane Doe and there are hundreds of Jane Does online, then you might claim the LinkedIn URL of if your middle name is Zoe or if you like the number 500.

Professional looking photos can also help to eliminate any confusion, particularly when you've had the opportunity to meet directly with potential employers.

Finally, and most importantly, be sure to drive people's attention to the online image you've created for yourself. It's most likely that someone will Google you after having some form of communication from you, so make sure that all of your communications provide people with guidance for finding you online. Add your LinkedIn profile to your resume, business cards, email signature, voice mail message or anyplace else that represents you to people. When you meet someone in person, you can even say, "I have a really common name, so if you need to find me online, remember that I'm JaneDoe500."

If you're in the opposite situation and have a very uncommon or difficult-to-spell name, the above tips can work for you as well. No matter what your name, you must take ownership of how people find and perceive you online. Your name is not just your name; it's your reputation.

Next: Social Media Plays a Huge Role in Your Job Search -- Whether You Realize It or Not

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Holly Paul


Holly Paul is the U.S. Recruiting Leader for PwC, one of the world's largest professional services firms, overseeing all of the firm's campus and experienced recruiting activities and managing a team of more than 200 professionals who comprise the firm's recruiting network. In her role, Holly leads PwC's efforts to attract, engage and hire full-time professionals and interns -- including PwC's increasing use of social media for recruiting purposes, as well as initiatives to build and maintain relationships with the nearly 200 universities where PwC actively recruits.   

Holly is a frequent speaker and subject matter expert on recruiting, human resource management and career related topics, appearing on college campuses around the country and interviewing with numerous media to offer perspective on such issues.  She has been featured on ABC News' "Job Club," Bloomberg Radio's "The Hays Advantage with Kathleen Hays," and regularly quoted in The Wall Street Journal, FORTUNE,,, CareerBuilder, MORE Magazine online, The Chicago Tribune, MarketWatch, The Houston Chronicle, dozens of campus newspapers and other news sources. 

As a member of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Recruiting Network, Holly leads the experienced recruitment network sharing best practices from the U.S. firm with her peers who lead the recruiting efforts at other PwC Global Network firms around the world. The collaboration drives greater consistency and efficiency in the recruiting process for PricewaterhouseCoopers worldwide. 

Holly draws upon her more than 16 years of experience in a variety of roles across PwC's organization to inform and enhance the firm's recruiting function.  Most recently, she served as PwC's National Sourcing Operations Leader for campus and experienced recruiting.  In this role, she was responsible for the business operations and financial management of the recruiting organization, as well as direction of campus and experienced recruitment strategies and initiatives.

From 2006 to 2007, Holly led the human resource operations of PwC's Internal Firm Services (IFS) group, comprised of 7,000 professionals who provide internal strategic services in the areas of administration, finance, human resources, information technology, infrastructure, knowledge management, learning and education, marketing and sales, and other key support functions.  During this period, Holly led a redesign of the human capital organization within IFS, to better align process and talent with firm strategy.   Previously, she served for a decade as a human resource leader in PwC's Carolinas and Washington, D.C. metro markets. 

Holly began her career in PwC's Florham Park, New Jersey office in 1994 as a client service assurance professional.  A 1994 graduate of Lafayette College with a BA in Anthropology and a concentration in Accounting, Holly is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and maintains certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). She resides in Bethesda, MD with her husband, Bill, and their two children.

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Linda PH

Hi Holly. Thanks for this post as it really made me stop and think about the issues surrounding who else has your name. I'm OK as I think I'm the only Linda Parkinson-Hardman you will find on Google or otherwise and I've also been very active online over the years, but that doesn't apply to the vast majority of my clients who have names that are not necessarily so unique or where they haven't been so active. You've now given me something else to work on with them which is protecting their 'brand' (aka their name) from possible mis-identification because of others who happen to have the same (or similar) monika. Of course, this can only help to encourage them to create the strong LinkedIn profiles you mentioned and to be more astute when it comes to using their own account names elsewhere. Thank You.

August 22 2011 at 12:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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