Skip to main content

Alan Kotok , ,

Calculating Your Online Identity

Several Science Careers articles and blog posts in the past year or so have encouraged job hunters to sharpen their online identities, since more employers now search the Web and social networks to find out more about their leading job candidates. To help with this task, the authors of a 2007 book on personal branding offer a Web-based service that reviews your online identity and lets you know if it needs fixing up.

William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson, both career consultants, provide an Online Identity Calculator that asks a few questions about your current employment and career goals, then steps you through a Google search of your name and its results. Based on the number and type of responses that show up in the search, the online calculator assigns you to a spot in one of four quadrants on a two-dimensional scale. The two dimensions are:
– Volume: number of returns in the search, and
– Relevance: if the returns are favorable vs. unfavorable or irrelevant.

If the search of your name has only a few returns and they do not say good things about you, you fall in the Digitally Dissed quadrant. If the search yields a lot of returns, but they are still not favorable, you’re really in trouble: the Digitally Disastrous quadrant. In either of these categories, you need to get those negative items removed or start generating content that says good things about you and your work; examples — a LinkedIn profile or thoughtful comments on leading blogs.

If your name search yields only a few returns but they are generally favorable, Arruda and Dixson say you are Digitally Dabbling. In this group, your online identity still needs work, but you’re in better shape than the people with unfavorable details in their searches. And if you have both high volume and favorable content in your name search, you’ve reached Digitally Distinct status. Arruda and Dixson warn, however, that even at this stage — what they call “the nirvana of online identity” — you still need to monitor your online presence, in case negative information pops up.

There’s a fifth category: Digitally Disguised. You’re assigned to this category if the search yields nothing and you don’t even make into the chart. Since most science grad students and postdocs today are identified somewhere on their institutions’ Web sites, they should have little risk of totally falling off the chart.

Be aware that you need to give your e-mail address at the beginning of the review, and you get a follow-up message from the authors’ consulting firm when you complete the process. You can chose to unsubscribe from further mailings, however.