This is Zoë Goldring here, one of the JobGals over at JobSyntax with the honor of posting for Harry this week....

The big kerfluffle made by Apple and Google recently to protect their brand names (thanks for the lead Heather), got me thinking again about personal brand and protecting your name .... and reputation .... in the digital age.  We've blogged before about combatting your digital dirt and the idea of personal brand, but have you ever thought about what (or frankly who) might be out their tarnishing your personal brand and how you can protect it?

Here are a few quick thoughts on how you can keep your impeccable reputation untarnished:

  1. Go ahead, Google yourself.  Or Yahoo! or MSN Search; whichever search engine satisfies your itch. As most potential employers will probably be doing the same thing, it's important to find out what information is out there about you, positive or negative.  You'll have an opportunity to then address these with the recruiter or hiring manager should they ever come up.  Harry has a great example of this in finding Caleb Founds on Jobster.

  2. Check your references, recruiters will.  Who's on your list of references that you hand to future employers?  Will these people provide an honest and critical evaluation of your skills?  Have you spoken with them in advance to determine how they might answer questions about your work history, interpersonal and team skills?  Now, I am not suggesting that you stack your references in a 100% positive light, people will figure that out, but make sure to know who on your list is giving an honest and accurate assement of your skills.

  3. Do you have a doppleganger?  Folks with uncommon names, say like a Zoë Goldring or a Gretchen Ledgard, may not have this problem.  However, if you have a terribly common name, think John Smith, try to detemine if there are other individuals out there practicing in your same field with the same name.  You may even try to differentiate yourself by using your middle initial.  I have a friend who has the same name as his father, they live in the same city and practice in the same field.  Long ago he found it imperative to distinguish himself from his father.  Now he goes by J. Norman Wilson.  A slight change in name gave birth to a new identity and helped set him apart.

  4. Stick to your brand.  A strong brand will continue to evolve with you over time.  At the same time, and of course career changes aside, you want to have a lazer-like focus on the key attributes you have to offer to an employer.  If you want to be know as the internet brand marketing expert, what activities and goals must you accomplish to reach that status?  Consider writing yourself a brief elevator pitch, as suggested by Libby Sartain over at Yahoo!, and reviewing it on a quarterly basis.  Does this still describe you and your goals?  Should it be changed to reflect any recent accomplishments?  Oh, and if you do change your name you may want to consider sticking to it in the long run :)

Understanding what information is out there about you as well as what others might be saying can go a long way in protecting your personal brand.  Just like G.I. Joe said in those great cartoon PSA's of yesteryear, knowing is half the battle!

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Harry Joiner is an executive recruiter specializing in integrated marketing and "new media." He has been featured in MarketingSherpa's Great Minds in Marketing series and received coverage in the Wall Street Journal's Career Journal Online. According to Viral Garden's weekly rankings, Harry's weblog is one of the top 25 marketing weblogs in the world.