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Feel like your identity has been hijacked online?

Another Tuesday, another column. I got this question from someone who attended a social networking workshop I did recently for people who are soon to be out of work. She was concerned about her image online, especially since she's soon to be out actively in the job market:

We talk about online image control quite a bit, the primary test being to Google your name and see what comes up.

But what if you don't like what you see? And even worse, what if it's not even you?

One Poked reader e-mailed us, worrying about a case of mistaken identity online. The reader had a common Hispanic name, and when she Googled herself, the third link was another person's Facebook account. It had the same name as her -- and a profile picture of a woman dancing on a stripper pole.

Needless to say, not a good image for potential employers -- at least, not for most jobs.

Thankfully, people switch Facebook pictures. Within a few days, the pole profile picture had been replaced.

You can't control other people's Facebook images. But take heart because there are a few things you can do to make your online search results as good as possible.

LinkedIn has a powerful pull in search-engine results. That means if you have a LinkedIn account, that profile will appear higher in a Google name search. But you need to have an active, complete profile and at least a few connections to improve your chances of keeping that site prominent in search results.

Facebook and other sites like VisualCV and Twitter that are popular also seem to weigh in heavier than smaller websites.

So here's the key: Bulk up your online presence by creating profiles on well-known sites. But you must be active on these sites for them to show up.

Finally, here's another practical way to distance yourself from others who share your name. Put up a picture on your LinkedIn profile so it will be clear who you are. And make sure when you're sending out your résumé, either a hard copy or online, that you provide a link to that profile.


What about you? Do you have any tips for how you have managed this issue?

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