Even if you have no plans to run a business, you have an online brand: it is the persona the internet world perceives you to be. What comes up when your name is put in a search engine? Are you on social media with embarrassing pictures? Why would I tell you to “own” your online brand?
To own something is to be invested in it, to take responsibility for it, and to proactively maintain it.
Any prospective employer is going to be looking at what kind of presence you have online. The positions with more at stake may involve a bit more research, because there will be a desire to know if there’s anything that will be a problem once you are in the company. Security clearances can require quite extensive background checks. Depending on the position you are seeking, what comes up online on your “brand” might cost you a job.
Now is the time to invest in your online brand. It can be an investment of time and effort, or you may choose to actually maintain a purchased site in your name with your professional highlights. A LinkedIn profile is worth the research and investment. Learn about online personal branding and get advice on the type of development your career should involve.
Now is the time to take responsibility for your online brand. Do what needs to be done to clean up your profiles on Facebook and the rest of the social media you are involved in. Maybe you need to tighten up your privacy settings, and perhaps you should have a professional social media page, or a personal one — and be very careful about what is allowed on each. It isn’t difficult to find horror stories about pictures that should never have been posted being circulated beyond what was intended with consequences unanticipated. If you have made a major mistake, fix it to the best of your ability and be prepared to show how you have matured.
Now is the time to proactively maintain it. Make the commitment to own your online brand and consistently check to see how the world sees you. Most of the people in the world will never see you in person, but if they can get online they can find out about you. Do what you need to do in order to keep your brand one that reflects the best about you.