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I'm almost entirely sure, that out of 7 billion people, I'm the only person in the world with my name. As such, a quick google will pick up absolutely everything about me there is on the internet, from my Facebook, Google and twitter profiles, to my Youtube, to list on a university page, to the results of a tennis tournament I competed in when I was in year 8 (will definitely make applying for a job as a tennis coach that much more difficult).

In all seriousness though, is this ease of being found online likely to affect people's perception of me when looking for a job? My Facebook profile is set to friends only, my youtube account has all it's videos set to secret, all that kind of stuff, and even then, I don't really have anything too incriminating online (save embarrassing tennis results).

And on top of that, is there any kind of way I can work this to my advantage? Somehow building a better presence, hiding things that don't necessarily make me shine, and highlighting the things that do.

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    Great question! I also have a name that I'm fairly sure is unique, so interested to hear the answer :) – user29632 Feb 18 '15 at 9:24
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    Yeah, switch everything that's not professional to a pseudonym and bolster everything that's professional with your actual name. – Raystafarian Feb 18 '15 at 15:40
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If searching for your name finds only you, flood it with awesome stuff that will make employers happy. The more good stuff you have, the less likely anything embarrassing will be visible or picked up on.

You're easy to find, so take advantage

Imagine if your name was John Smith -- sure you have the anonymity, but nobody will ever be able to find anything about you unless you are 600 times more excellent than every other John Smith who ever lived.

If you're really the only person in the world with your name (which is incredible), then you have the perfect opportunity to run with that. You know that your employers will google you. If you make a page about you, for you, that actually links to all the important stuff, you know that the employer will probably find it and read it. You can sell yourself on that page any way you'd like -- it's like getting a second free cover letter for any job you apply to.

What are they Googling for?

The people googling your name are going to be HR people, or prospective bosses/colleagues who are trying to vet you. Yes, part of that is making sure that the first result for your name doesn't pop up racist tweets, pornographic photos, or a news article talking about your arrest for distribution of narcotics, but part of it is also seeing if you are a person they are interested in hiring.

If Seth Godin applies for a job at my company and I Google him -- do you think I'll search through 10 pages looking for dirt, or read a couple of his blog posts and get excited about what he's written? Do you think I'll ask him about that typo he has on his LinkedIn profile, or about the stuff he's written about?

Start now

Because of the way the internet works (as I understand it), the quicker you get stuff out there, the sooner stuff will start working special internet mojo-magic and appear when people look for you. Start tossing stuff up. Expand some of your SO posts into longer blog entries. Or toss some of your photos up online. Grab some of those papers you've written, or projects you've done, or programs you've finished and toss them on a page somewhere.

That way, when people dig through the internet looking for you, not only will they definitely find something, but it will be the things you want them to find.

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Is [having a unique name] likely to affect people's perception of me when looking for a job?

Having a name no one recognizes rarely impacts your prospects one way or the other.

Is there any kind of way I can work this to my advantage?

This can really work to your advantage. For example, if you start a professional blog or social networking presence (e.g. LinkedIn) and work to increase its profile, it will likely appear at the top of search results for your name. You get to determine what people see rather than others.

Similarly, you are not competing with others. If you choose a web site, E-mail address or profile name that matches your name, you are less likely to get it confused with others.

These days, some people separating their personal and professional online personas. For example, I might work on a blog and LinkedIn profile (as mentioned above), contributing frequently and publicly. However, I might keep my Facebook profile private. I might have two Twitter accounts - one public and professional and the other private.

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  • Hey akton, thanks for your answer. What do you mean by "people are increasingly separating their personal and professional online personas."? What are some ways people do it? – SCB Feb 18 '15 at 10:16
  • @SCB I have expanded the answer to give some examples of separate personal and professional online personas. – akton Feb 18 '15 at 11:19
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This can be a great asset or a liability, depending how you use it. Most employers WILL google you before an interview you. If your name is "John Smith" than this will turn up nothing useful and the employer will just move on. If it's like mine or yours, there will be lot of information which the employer will evaluate and use.

So it all depends on what shows up when you google yourself. In my case it's all good stuff: patents, bands I played with, scientific publications, press conferences and interviews. Photos could be better, but that's life: there goes my modeling career.

If you have something bad showing up (arrest records, involvement in something that's potentially offensive to someone) than you should think about strategies to push it down the list. If there is nothing of substance, neutral stuff than it's okay. If it's positive, it can really help you.

I'd worry mostly about Goole and maybe Bing.

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