I've recently been working with several clients on their personal 'branding' within the industry and I'm surprised so few of them know about this simple but essential trick. A few articles ago I talked about the importance of first impressions – and how to go about making good ones. But there's actually something even more important than this, and that's the pre-first-impression-impression!
Let me explain. These days the first thing many crew agencies, Captains, owners (or their representatives) do when considering a prospective employee is:
Google them. This means popping the candidate's full name, in inverted commas, into the good old Google box and seeing what wonderful things come back. Now if your name is "John Smith" you might be quite lucky, in that there are probably a lot of other John Smiths gracing that first page of search results, so unless you're particularly notorious you'll most likely be safely submerged in the relative anonymity of somewhere past page 2.
BUT (and I know your high school English teacher told you never to start a sentence with but, but sometimes there is no better way to get your but across) if you have a relatively uncommon name, and if someone is canny enough to add the word ‘crew’ or ‘yacht’ in the search box along with your name, you are quite likely to appear right there on page 1.
AND (another taboo, I love it: playing fast and loose with grammar gods this week) a little known secret is that Google loves images – so if you are tagged or named in a publicly visible photograph, guess what will be right at the top of the page? Yep, you, the boyzzzz and that wench with the giant jugs (OF BEER!!) at that boozy Beerfest last October.
OR (there we go, a trifecta) something similarly unsavory for your prospective new employer to be ogling alongside your professional (we hope!) CV photo.
As if this isn’t horrifying enough, there is only one thing Google loves even more than a good old image… and that’s VIDEOS. So that absolutely hilarious YouTube your crew mates uploaded of you rolling around plastered on your cabin floor with the Chief Stewardess’s undies on your head is an odds on favourite to come up trumps as well. Combine that with the Beerfest photo and a bunch of other unsavoury snaps and that’s a pretty impressive pre-first-impression-impression you’ve got going on – although sadly, not for any of the right reasons.
I know it’s wicked, but at the beginning of each recruitment season one of my Captain friends sends me link after hilarious link to some of his unsuspecting candidates’ most spectacularly stupid photos, videos and other pages they probably never thought anyone else would ever find out about, let alone the Captain they handed their CV to at the end of the passerelle.
But before you start thinking this is a rookie error, some of my most senior clients are doing this right now – and you could be too! *Pauses for readers to rush off and Google themselves.*
Hopefully you did just go off and do this, but if you didn't - do it now! Otherwise known as 'ego surfing' this is more than just an exercise in vanity, it's an essential bit of reconnaissance that needs to be done on a fairly regular basis.
OK so now you're back from your little surfing safari, hopefully the results were relatively innocent. However, if you did find something embarrassing, the main question of course is what do you do about it.
Unfortunately the answer is, not a heck of a lot. It depends what the content is – if it is a photo on Facebook you can untag yourself, or on another site you might be able to request the publisher to remove the reference to you (or the photo altogether). But even then it will take a while for the Google Gods to de-list that reference to you (if they ever do), so it is likely to remain forever indexed in the Google’s dark and mysterious memory banks.
Thankfully basic human laziness, impatience and business is on your side, and you can turn this to your advantage. Most people are unlikely to care enough to click much further than page two, so your best bet is to try and plump up your search results with more professional listings that will hopefully outrank the other stuff, filling your first page with a pre-first-impression-impression you would be proud to show even your Grandma.
One way to do this is to increase your presence in suitable social media, such as a full and active Linkedin profile, or participating in public professional Facebook groups. Another could be to write articles for a reputable industry publication such as OnboardOnline, The Crew Report, or Dockwalk to increase your credibility with your associated byline. Join some professional industry associations and your name could appear in the membership listings – or get involved in the discussion forums (in a professional capacity) of some of the great online crew networks out there.
The important thing to remember is that even if you have a personal website, page 1 of Google is your real “Home Page” – it’s the page people see before they see your page. And this is even more pertinent when you don’t have a website, as that’s ALL people have to go on. So go on, tell us – what does your unofficial home page and pre-first-impression-impression say about you?