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Open Letter to College Grads: Employers Are Looking You Up -- Here's How to Get the Job Anyway

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Dear Graduate,

If you're reading this, that means you've completed your degree. Congratulations! There isn't much life advice I can give that you didn't already hear from your commencement speaker, so I want to concentrate on something else: getting a job.

Like every generation before you, you'll have to send out your résumé, prepare cover letters, and go on interviews. However, unlike most other generations, you also have to worry about your online presence. In fact, 75 percent of HR departments are required to research you online before making a decision. In today's market, you need every edge you can get, so here are a few ways to make sure you're putting your best foot forward, or at least not shooting yourself in the foot:

1) Clean up your Facebook page. Employers are looking, and your privacy settings won't keep you safe. It doesn't take much to get around those in the first place, and many times, employers will send a friend request with the expectation of being accepted. Recently, some companies are even demanding your passwords. Whether you agree with it or not, do yourself a favor and clean it up. If you aren't sure what's appropriate, use a simple rule of thumb: if it's not something you would want your grandma seeing, it probably doesn't belong on the Web (just keep your spring break photos on your hard drive).

2) Google yourself and see where you stand. Google is one of the first places an employer looks, and trust me when I say it's very important. Our co-founder, Pete, had no idea he was being mistaken for a drug dealer in Google, and didn't find out until he couldn't get an internship. Most people think they're in the clear as long as nothing negative shows up -- but the truth is, good results help you just as much as bad results hurt you. That's why we started BrandYourself in the first place. You want to fill that first page of search results with as many positive results as possible, which you can do by following the rest of these tips.

3) Be visible and stand out. Since you're being looked up online, you might as well make a good first impression. Take control by creating positive, relevant content that shows an employer how qualified you really are.

Build a website/portfolio site: With free tools such as WordPress, Tumblr, and BrandYourself, anyone can quickly build a website. Make sure you purchase your domain name (yourname.com, yourname.me, etc.) and fill the page with as much relevant information as possible: your bio, projects you've completed, your latest work, etc.
Create a LinkedIn profile and fill it out completely: LinkedIn is another page that will place high in your Google results. Make sure you fill it out as much as possible. Not only does this give the employer more information (the more, the better), it also helps your page rank higher in results to ensure they find it.
Build a social presence: You want as many strong results as possible, so go ahead and create Twitter and Google+ accounts. These are other places to connect with people, showcase your professional skills, and promote yourself in search results.

4) Monitor your results. Even if you're in the clear for now, you have to keep your eyes open. In today's world, all it takes is one blog post from a disgruntled ex, or one photo tagged in bad judgment, to completely undermine a great reputation. By going to google.com/alert and setting up an alert for your name, you can be the first to know if something unsavory shows up.

5) Be active, and use it to your advantage. It's not all about defense; you can also be proactive and use these tools to find yourself a job.

Use LinkedIn to find alumni who work in your industry. People love giving advice, so it's a great way to get your foot in the door.
Comment on industry articles. This is another way to start connecting with people in your industry. If you take the time to comment on people's work, you're much more likely to develop relationships.
Blog once a week about your industry. This is one of the most underutilized tools out there. Think about it: you know you're being Googled, so why not show them how thoughtful and passionate you are? You can start simple. Just write a reaction piece to an article you found in the Times.

You've worked hard the last four years -- going to class, studying, developing a network, and building a strong reputation. Today, your online reputation is just as important, so follow these tips and make sure your virtual presence reflects that.

Congratulations again. Here's to a great future!