Your online reputation is the "story" someone creates about you based on what they read online. Studies show this story has a significant impact on how people perceive you professionally and on your international job search success.
An online presence is critical to those looking for jobs abroad because they simply don't have the opportunities to reach and connect with target employers or decision makers overseas like those that are local do.
An online presence allows you to be "global" and "local" at the same time. With strategically developed profiles and content online, you can ‘introduce' or make yourself visible to your target employers or decision makers abroad in a way that was not previously possible.
Being active on specific online networks or social media also allows you to engage and network with those who need to know about you wherever they are in the world. Online networks can help you be part of ongoing conversations with people thousands of miles away without ever having to leave home.
Different countries and cultures access information and behave differently online. In order to build an online reputation that will support your international job search goals, you need to understand how and where to present and monitor yourself as well as engage online.
Search engines are where people will go first to "hear" about your story or personal brand online. It's important to realize the search engines your target audience abroad uses and the results they get will very likely be different from yours.
Following the common practice of deferring to Google.com or your country specific Google search engine (i.e. Google.co.uk in the UK, Google.de in Germany) when assessing your online reputation during an international job search can be highly problematic. Some of the reasons include:
Google is the top search engine in the world, but not in all countries.
As of October 2011, Baidu holds the top spot in China. Seznam is the most visited search engine in the Czech Republic, and Yahoo is the number one search engine in Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan. Results from these search engines range from different to extremely different from Google.
Country-specific Google sites generate different results.
Country-specific Google search engines are reported to be used much more often than Google.com in their respective countries. (i.e. Google.co.uk gets around 95% of the UK's Google traffic while Google.com gets 5%). Their search results can be different from other country specific Google sites and Google.com.
20% of searches are not done through Google or Yahoo.
Google handles about 65% of all searches online - which means 35% of the time people are using other search tools. Yahoo handles around 15% of all online searches and also has country specific sites like Google.
With so many potentially different search results, it's easy to see how challenging staying abreast of the story being read about you online by targeted employers and decision makers abroad could be.
However, it is possible - and critical - to get an accurate picture of your personal brand online in the country in which you'd like to find a job. Otherwise a weak - or worse non-existent - online reputation could be hurting your international job search efforts without you even knowing it.
Search engines provide more than just text based results. They also provide links to audio interviews, presentations, photos and videos. If you use any of these formats in building your brand online - as you should be - it's important to put that content in the right places to increase the chances of appearing in your target audience's search results.
For example, photos can speak volumes, and do quite a lot to influence how people perceive you. Where you post your photos online will affect how many people see them. In North and South America, Australia, Russia, India, and much of Europe, Flickr is the top ranked photo site. However in Peru, Egypt, Turkey, Portugal, Ukraine, Poland and Croatia, Imageshack is the most popular site for photos.
Do your research to find out where to post and share information across formats to insure your personal brand building efforts online have the greatest positive impact on your international job search.
Online networks and social media are the second most likely place people will go to learn about other people. People can further their understanding of you and what you have to offer through actively engaging with you or observing how you engage with others. But you need to be in the right places in order to engage with and be observed by those who need to know about you.
People often assume the largest professional networks will give you the greatest coverage and reach. Indeed, joining Linkedin, the top professional networking site in the world with 119 million members, is always a good thing to do if only because it will increase your chances of showing up on the first page of search results.
But a large number of members does not necessarily mean global coverage. The second most popular professional networking site is Xing. It has 11.1 million members worldwide and provides the ability to network in 16 different languages. But 77% of Xing's members are from Germany, with only 3 other countries each contributing between 2 and 6% to the membership. The second largest and third most popular professional network is Viadeo. It has 35 million members and allows you to network in six languages. But 69% of Viadeo's members are from France, with only 11 countries each contributing between 1 and 4% of their membership.
Hence, it's important to determine on which online networks your target employers and decision makers are most likely connecting so you can increase your chances of being visible to as well as engaging with them.
Without an online story aligned with your personal brand and international job search goals, no online strategy in the world is going to help you get a job overseas. However knowing how and where your story is being told online will help you build an online reputation that will reach and positively influence employers and decision makers in your country of choice.
About this author...
Megan Fitzgerald is an expat career and personal branding coach, CEO of Career By Choice, and your guide to the world of international careers. With two decades of experience supporting professionals and entrepreneurs in 40+ countries across 6 continents, Megan uses a 360°approach to help expats and international job seekers become highly visible, sought after, and land work abroad. You can read about expat careers at CareerbyChoiceBlog, and also find her on Twitter as @ExpatCoachMegan, on Facebook and Google+, and, of course, on LinkedIn.