Wesley Mallette, Co-Founder and CEO of Comment Communications, offers great advice to public figures on strategically managing their image.  One can easily understand how famous peoples' lives are under a microscope and their every move is monitored in the court of public opinion.

My question is - have you given any thought to what YOUR public image looks like?  As an athlete you may have already experienced the pressures of public life to some degree.  However, all too often college students and recent grads do not strategically think about how they are presenting themselves in the public space. 

As Wesley says in his article, The Power of Perception: 5 Reasons Why Athletes Should Care, “Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So make EVERY interaction count. This includes managing your online reputation, what you do ‘off-the-field’…”  This advice is equally important for the average athlete as it is for any public figure, and critical if you are looking for a job or internship. 

Employers are very savvy when it comes to conducting mini background checks on candidates.  They can easily do quick research, and the information they come up with could impact hiring decisions.  With Wesley’s advice in mind, here are four of the most common places to be conscious of your public image:

1. Facebook:

Employer representatives are present in this space, and will often conduct a quick search of candidates to see what they can find.  So, before you are in the job/internship hunt consider making your social networking image more professional.  Critically review your information/photos and at the very least adjust your privacy settings.

Public image:

A hiring manager was searching for strong academic researchers and had a qualified graduating senior he wanted to interview.  The company’s interest lessened in this person because he had joined the “I hate homework club” on Facebook.  This soured the recruiter because he needed candidates who enjoyed the academic process. 

Another student had posted photos from her college formal.  All of the photos were perfectly fine showing a group of friends all dressed up and having a good time.  However, every single photo showed the young woman with a beer in her hand.  In the job/internship search you never know what might be a blemish that could cost you the opportunity. 

2. Voice Message & Emails:

The primary modes of communication in the professional world are phone and email, and how you present yourself here is under far more scrutiny than when you are connecting with your friends and family. 

Public image:

Phone: Does the message state, “Hey, this is John - you know what to do” (or worse) best represent your professional image?  When you are giving your phone number out for networking or job search purposes, it is more appropriate to have a simple message like, “Hi this is John, please leave a message and I will return your call when I can.”  Side note: “Hey” is never a professional greeting. 

Email: When you are networking/job seeking, it is best to set up a professional account that uses your first and last name.  This is easy to remember and more appropriate for these situations.  The trick is remembering to check your email frequently.  Although college students may not use email regularly, the professional world does. 

3. LinkedIn:

If you do not have an account on LinkedIn, I strongly recommend creating one.  This is a great space for professional networking.  College students and recent grads typically understand the nature of this site and present themselves professionally.  However, I have seen some networking attempts that could have used some polish. 

Public image:

Does your status update, profile summary or any public questions or group comments translate to “Please, ANYONE hire me!” or  “I don’t really know what I want to do, I just want a job!”  It is important to be clear with what you ask in this forum.  A question like, “I am looking for a job in sports, any advice?” is too broad.  This question makes the professional work too hard to understand you.  “Sports” is a very comprehensive industry, so be sure to do some advanced research to better articulate your interests. If the professional has to search through your profile and/or review your resume just to better understand your question, they are working harder than you. 

4. Twitter:

Tweets are everywhere – and people publish comments ranging from their opinions on current issues to what they ate for breakfast.  Having an opinion and wanting to voice it in a public way is great.  Just remember what you tweet to the world is exactly that – to the world.  This is another part of your public image portfolio, so just think twice before you share your thoughts.

Public image:

I have seen people tweet comments about their recent romance break up, in addition to things like “I hate my job” & “Pretending to work.”  If I were a recruiter looking to fill a position, I would think twice about hiring someone who has made public comments like this. 

The bottom line here is that it is critical to have a strategy for your public image, particularly when you are searching for a job or internship.  Keep in mind that career opportunities could come your way anytime – make sure you are positioned to capitalize on those opportunities.  A simple Google search will easily bring up your public activity, so what is your image strategy?  As Wesley reminds us, “Make EVERY interaction count.”