A startup founder I know was hiring recently, and she told me, "I search for applicants on the Web before I call them in for an interview. What people do online tells you more than a resume can."
When someone Googles your name, what do they find? Is it a outdated quote from an ancient article in your college newspaper? Is it your blog dedicated to cute photos of ferrets? Or is it a bunch of pages about someone else who happens to share your name?
Google is the new pre-interview. It's the universal way people try to find you. Potential clients, bosses, dates, and old high school friends are searching for your name on the Web, and you should have a say in what they get back. To make yourself findable, claim your name in Web search results by setting up pages with information you're comfortable sharing.
The best way to make yourself findable online is to set up a blog and update it regularly. Google loves pages that have fresh information on them, so a Web site that changes often and has your name on it will appear higher in search results. Remember that your blog will likely be the first thing people see when they search for you, so make sure it covers topics you're comfortable having out there in public. If your Web presence is for business purposes, keep your blog professional.
If you don't have time to blog, there are other options. My sister is an executive at a large organization, and she doesn't spend a lot of time on the Web. She doesn't want to tweet or blog or update Facebook, but she does want to be findable with minimal effort. A social network like LinkedIn offers a place for professionals to make their CV available, and doesn't require frequent updates. Google Profiles is another option: if you go to google.com/profiles and enter your name, profession, and the places you've lived, Google will include a link to your profile at the bottom of search results for your name.
What information you choose to share is up to you--but a good rule of thumb is to include enough details to identify you to people who are looking, but not enough to help out a stalker. Don't publish your address or phone number, but maybe do add the city you live in and your profession to your profile.
Don't forget that what you do online--especially on sites you don't control--can follow you till the end of time. If you spend time in forums or on blogs, consider setting up an alias that's not linked to your real name. That way, the snarky comment you left on some blog two years ago won't haunt you till the end of time.
Gina Trapani is the author of Upgrade Your Life and founding editor of Lifehacker.com. Work Smart appears every week on FastCompany.com. Last week: Stop Multitasking and Start Doing One Thing Really Well.