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Tony McChrystal: Exploring the Impact of Online Reputation on Careers

Tony McChrystal, Director of ReputationDefender EMEA, offers insights into the influence of online reputation on individuals’ career prospects. In this role, he leads the Europe, Middle East, and Africa division of the world’s leading online reputation management company. This article delves into the topic of online reputation, highlighting how online content can affect an individual’s professional trajectory.

Online reputation management, commonly referred to as ‘ORM,’ empowers individuals and businesses to take control of the online discourse surrounding them. Online reputation plays a significant role in shaping how others perceive individuals during online searches. Every person and business possesses an online reputation, making it crucial to proactively manage and counteract misleading information to create a positive impression.

ORM essentially comprises two distinct cycles: a vicious cycle, where individuals neglect their online reputation and risk being affected by rumors and misinformation, and a virtuous cycle, where they actively cultivate a positive online presence.

Whether a recent graduate embarking on their career journey or a seasoned professional aiming for advancement, a lack of positive search results on Google can significantly impact job opportunities. As individuals climb the corporate ladder, prospective employers meticulously scrutinise their online reputation portfolio. Recruiters increasingly scour social media platforms to evaluate potential candidates. Consequently, a dearth of information about a candidate can raise doubts regarding their credibility, ultimately affecting their employability.

Both graduates and professionals need to pay close attention to their online reputation, considering that 69% of employers admit to conducting Google searches on job candidates as part of the screening process, according to a study by CareerBuilder. Social media content, including posts, pictures, and comments, can wield a substantial influence on an individual’s employability. In fact, the same study reveals that 54% of employers have rejected candidates based on their social media activity. This issue is particularly critical for job seekers aged 16 to 34, with 10% missing out on job opportunities directly due to their social media presence.

The internet has become the primary source of information today, with most people instinctively relying on it and making important decisions based on what they find online. According to research by Edelman Insights, two out of three individuals consider the internet the most reliable source of information about a person. When considering local businesses, 97% of people check online reviews, as reported by BIA Kelsey. These statistics underscore the potential impact negative online content can have on individuals and businesses.

For job seekers, maintaining an active presence on social media can be an invaluable asset, providing a platform to showcase their enthusiasm and expertise in their chosen field. However, it is crucial to evaluate whether all content portrays them in a positive light. A throwaway comment from years ago or mistakenly associated content could have devastating consequences on their professional life.

To assess their digital footprint, individuals should log out of their browsers to ensure search results are not influenced by their browsing history. When searching for oneself on Google, adding an occupation or city can help narrow down results and retrieve the most relevant content.

Most people do not venture beyond the first page of Google search results. However, if negative material appears on the first page, it can significantly impact a candidate’s job prospects. Content that can diminish the likelihood of being hired includes evidence of criminal behavior, indications of substance abuse, discriminatory statements, divulgence of confidential information about previous employers, provocative images or videos, and critical comments about former employers or colleagues.

For professionals aspiring to advance their careers, adopting a proactive approach to ORM is essential to ensure that their online reputation becomes an asset rather than a liability. Prudent steps for managing their digital footprint include adjusting privacy settings, actively building a positive online presence, addressing inaccuracies, and taking measures to remove negative content.

Whether at the beginning of their careers or already established, professionals must exercise caution before posting any content on social media, considering the significant and potentially long-lasting impact it can have.

Even after joining a company, employees should be aware that their social media posts remain subject to scrutiny, as more than half of employers admit to monitoring their employees’ social media activities. Although self-Googling might seem self-indulgent, it is a critical first step for career-oriented individuals to trace their digital footprint and safeguard their professional reputation.

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