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The Name Game



Chances are your name will be searched many times by potential employers and readers. Here’s how to control the way it’s viewed.

1. Google Yourself!

I recommend making it part of your professional practice to Google yourself every few months, whether you are currently looking for a job or not. Nowadays, your Google results are, in many cases, your digital first impression. 

Check to see if your current education, employment, and organizational affiliations come up in your search. 

As a millennial who has been on the Internet for what feels like my whole life, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see my name online. Whether its for Bat Mitzvah wishes (which I removed using the tools below), or recent articles I’ve written, it’s up to us to manage what information of ours we want others to see. 

If you want to receive real-time updates when your name is added or mentioned on the Internet, Google Alerts are a great way to stay on top of how your brand is being mentioned. 

2. Have All of Your Links and Bios Under One Name

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to make sure your professional name is consistent across the board. That means websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, company website bios, any organization you’re on the board of, e-mail addresses, and even Facebook if you use it professionally. 

LinkedIn and Facebook both have relatively simple URL change processes. And, to boot, your username and URL can be different. So, if you want to keep your URL one name and username something else, you can do that.  

For Twitter, your handle is your username. When I changed my handle to @rebeccamhia I claimed my old handle using a different e-mail address and pinned a tweet to my profile telling followers to find me at my new handle. I also tweeted my followers, updating them from @rebeccamhia that I had retired my old handle. (This tip is from my friend @navahhhhh.)

For websites where you aren’t the webmaster, you can explain your situation to your (previous) employer/the person with web access and have them change your name on their site. 

3. Tell Google to Remove or Add Links

Did you know you can tell Google what you want to remove or add from its results? 

For example, if you or a webmaster removes a webpage, you can ask Google to remove it from Google searches. You can even keep track of your request status and removed links here and request to add them back if you change your mind. 

You can also ask them to include your new website/links/handles in their system (theoretically, it should come up eventually, but this will expedite the process). Google “crawls” everything on the Internet, but its priority is towards, larger, more frequently visited sites. 

Also keep in mind that other search engines exist. For those people who use Bing, similar tools are available. 

In my experience, these changes can take between a few hours and a few days to be reflected. 

4. Don’t Panic if You Have Multiple Names

Some people like @hilariaviajera, a travel writer, love the anonymity a professional name can provide. “Nobody I grew up with can find me,” she said. 

“A lot of writers, especially women who change their last names socially when they marry, don't change their bylines past age 25 or so because they worry about losing name recognition once their careers are established.” 

While it may be scary, it may not end up being a problem. “I haven't found it to be a problem, possibly because I have an unusual first name. I've linked to clips of articles written under my former byline without explanation, and I've never gotten any questions. In fact, since my professional name is also unusual and memorable (unlike my original surname), it may even help.”

Having more than one professional name may even come in handy. “Having multiple identities can be useful professionally, especially for people with more than one career. There's a reason a lot of authors use aliases!” 

Whether you’ve changed your name, are choosing to drop a nickname, have an American name and a foreign language name, have a very common name, have multiple names, or are just having trouble coming up on Google, being proactive is essential in the digital age.

Do you have more tips/tricks/stories to share? Have questions for me or just want to kvetch? Tweet me at @rebeccamhia and while you’re there, check out @cencom and more opportunities on their Facebook page.