Beware! Your online image can say a lot to potential employers and colleges

Clean up your online act

Source: Education Times, February 28, 2013

By Jayashree Arunachalam

It’s that jolly time of year when college applications have been sent for some, and placements are looming closer for others. In this interim period, there is one thing that all potential students and employees must do: get their online act together.

In the age of technology, your online image says more than you think. In fact, it speaks volumes to colleges and companies looking to take you on board. “I keep telling students to be careful of what they do on the Internet,” says Sarala Vaidhyan, a college counsellor. “This generation lives and breathes on the Internet, and their entire life is on display: pictures, posts, statuses, blogs, web groups and communities that they are a part of. When you add it all together, it makes a difference.”

Kanishkaa Menon works for a leading software company, and often doubles up to work on the recruitment team. She talks about the process of sifting through literally thousands of applications, and often resorting to doing a quick online check to see if there’s anything that will tip the scales. “There usually is,” says Menon. “People tend to list ‘blogging’ as a hobby or skill on their résumé. If all we find is a WordPress link with about six posts talking about life and parents and love, we’re unimpressed. That does not qualify you as someone who blogs.”

Similar, Facebook profiles are, unsurprisingly, where a lot of decisions are made. “We know people go out and enjoy themselves, and we aren’t moralising, but we don’t need to see pictures of you dancing on tables,” she explains. “Be smart enough to untag yourself from those pictures.”

The process of cleaning your online image isn’t even as tedious as you’d think. Clever little websites like Simplewash can help – you can link them to your Facebook profile and it will automatically delete all questionable content based on parameters that you set. Also, simply Google your own name and see what comes up.

When Nicky George was applying for his MBA abroad, he took as many precautions as possible. “American colleges, over Indian ones, tend to take online checks quite seriously, and I didn’t want to take any chances,” he says. His course of action was simple: he merely changed his last name on Facebook. “I went by Nicky Armani,” he chuckles. “People made fun of me, but so what? I changed my profile link too, and I worked on my LinkedIn and Blogger profiles, so they came off as more professional. I also unsubscribed from a ton of superficial groups that might reveal my religious and political leanings, just to be safe.”

However, Sarala warns about going to the other extreme as well. “In your quest to censor your online self, don’t remove it completely,” she says. “It’s not a positive thing to Google someone and get almost no results. Make sure your online persona exists, but just in a professional, affirmative way.”

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