My son and all his friends are looking for summer jobs. And since all the job applications – for Target, Starbucks, and fast food places – are online, I’m sure a lot of pre-screening of applicants happens on Google.
From a teenager’s point of view (as far as I can tell) the online job application is the greatest thing since sliced bread. No getting dressed, driving around town, acting like a dork, filling out paper applications, and being polite to strangers. Job hunting can be done at any time of day and in any outfit. And when Mom and Dad ask if you are looking for a job, you can say, “I just applied at Target today.” (Even if you are still in your pajamas and have no intention of leaving the house.)
Even if teens don’t have to put on a suit and shoes and fix their own actual hair, though, they do have to do it virtually. Even if your teen is an honor student who has managed to get through high school (so far) without photos of beer guzzling or other youthful mistakes posted online, he probably has not thought to create an online snapshot of the things that makes him awesome. And having no online reputation can be almost as bad as having an embarrassing one – especially if there is someone out there with a similar name who pops up in a search.
Take a second to Google your teen. What comes up? Silly commentary on Twitter? Embarrassing photos? A YouTube video from fourth grade? Someone else? Yep. So it’s probably time to start creating an online presence that portrays the best parts of your teen’s life -- that kid you know someone will want to hire, accept into college, or – yes, even – date.
This is often fairly easy to do. Post some pictures, links, or commentary of her accomplishments – that garden she’s proud of, the soccer game she’s looking forward to, the science project that won an award -- to Twitter. Create an About.me page that highlights AP classes, interests, accomplishments, work experience, artwork, goals, dreams, and aspirations. When people Google her, they need to find something -- preferably something accurate and flattering.
If the results you turn up are more than you can fix with a little positive boasting, you might want some help. In fact, everyone – not just your teen -- could use a little help maintaining and monitoring their online reputation.
In the past, getting help with this from companies like Reputation.com or ReputationChanger.com was prohibitively expensive for this sort of situation. But a new site, BrandYourself.com, founded by a pair of college students who found themselves in need of reputation management services but unable to afford it, has stepped in to help. The basic service is free; premium services are $10 a month.
The site got started when co-founder Pete Kistler couldn’t get an internship because he was being mistaken – on Google -- for a convicted drug dealer with the same name. He sought help and was quoted $8,000/mo. by reputation management firms. This was more than he could pay. But he and his friend Patrick Ambron, CEO and co-founder, saw this as an opportunity. If Pete was in this situation, other people must be, too. So, in 2009, the pair got to work creating a service that anyone could afford. Today universities like John’s Hopkins and Syracuse University purchase BrandYourself’s premium product ($10/mo.) for students and alumni.
This site helps you control what turns up when someone searches on your name by asking you to input the sites you would like to showcase. And it allows you to create a profile page that is optimized to turn up on the first page of a Google search.
I may not be coaching my son on what to wear to apply for jobs but I am sitting down with him and going over his online reputation. And it helps to have not only a tool he can use to take care of this but Kisler’s tale of reputation woe – instead of my son’s mistakes, which only makes him defensive – to illustrate why this is important.