How 3 History PhD Students Used Podcasting to Harness “The Superstar Effect”

By Scott Rank

Getting noticed in academia is enormously difficult. Scholars compete for attention by having fancy alma maters or getting published in prestigious journals – both of which have acceptance rates in the single digits.

But three PhD students in history were largely able to sidestep this process. Each gained academic clout through unconventional means. They did it in ways that academic publishing or conference presentations would not have made possible.

What do they have in common? All three are history podcasters. They are Chris Gratien from The Ottoman History Podcast, Tamas Kiss from the Medieval Radio Podcast, and me from the History in Five Minutes Podcast. None of them had an exceptional technical knowledge when they started. What they did could be done by just about any academic. In this blog post I will describe how academics can used podcasting to stand out in their fields.

But first I need to describe a behavioral phenomenon that explains why something as simple as podcasting can produce such big results. That phenomenon is called “The Superstar Effect.”

I’ve written elsewhere about the Superstar Effect in academia. Computer science PhD Cal Newport described it in even greater detail in an extensive post on Tim Ferriss’s blog. The Superstar Effect is an economics theory that says in many different fields it pays disproportionally well to be not just very good, but the absolute best. According to a 1981 paper published in the American Economics Review, the top person in any field will get massively more fame, money, and attention than his or her marginally-less-talented competitors.

Understanding the Superstar Effect within academia is simple. According to a recent article in Slate, a new study in Science Advances shows that just a quarter of all universities account for 71 to 86 percent of all tenure-track faculty in the U.S. and Canada in the fields of business, computer science, and history. Eight schools account for half of all history professors.

If a university hiring committee has to choose between two candidates, one a graduate from Harvard and the other from the University of Iowa, all things being equal they will choose the Harvard graduate. That’s why tenure-track job openings get hundreds of job applicants with marginal differences between any one of them, but the job in the end goes to the Ivy League graduate.

But there is a way to get all the benefits of the Superstar Effect without going to Harvard or being published in the American Historical Review. It comes by using a process known as The Superstar Corollary. Newport writes that The Superstar Corollary means being the best in a field makes you disproportionally impressive to the outside world. This effect holds even if the field is not crowded, competitive, or well-known.

This is where podcasting comes in. Being the best podcaster in an academic field is far less difficult than writing dozens of peer-reviewed articles. But you can receive far more benefits from the former despite much less competition.

Chris Gratien is one of the hosts of The Ottoman History Podcast. He began the project in April 2011 during his PhD studies to discuss topics in the field with fellow Ottoman scholars. Although Chris has excellent academic and publishing credentials, he has still triggered The Superstar Effect through podcasting. By recording nearly 200 episodes, he has become a well-known name across Ottoman studies.

The Ottoman History Podcast has no funding or institutional affiliation. Each episode is powered by a laptop, a mixer, and a few microphones. It features a discussion among 2-3 historians on one aspect of Ottoman studies, whether environmental history or poetry in the classical age. Sometimes it is Gratien alone giving a monologue. Despite these humble resources, the show has grown into a social media powerhouse.

Gratien wrote last month that the program currently receives 15,000 plays and downloads per week. The site uses a social media approach based on Facebook, with a core following of 18,000 people. Gratien lectures to the equivalent of a large state university each week. Thanks to numerous shares and retweets of new Ottoman History Podcast episodes, they often reach media professionals focused on foreign affairs and the Middle East.

The second example is Tamas Kiss, a doctoral candidate in Ottoman History at Central European University. He started the CEU Medieval Radio Podcast. Tamas conceived of CEU Medieval Radio in 2011 in the first year of his program because he regretted the enormous amount of knowledge that was being accumulated in the field but would never reach the wider public. Even though exciting ideas were traded among medievalists at conferences and public lectures, the average person still thought that everyone in the Middle Ages believed in a flat earth and burned witches.

The first episode aired on April 25, 2012. It is the only medieval themed radio on the Internet which provides its listeners with verbal content along with authentic medieval and renaissance music, from the Iberian Peninsula to the Ottoman Empire. His goal is for the radio program to become the most listened-to online radio associated with medieval and early modern history and music.

Through the program, Tamas has met top medieval and early modern historians. Over 80 guests have been on the show, including Natalie Zemon Davis and Peter Burke. The recording studio itself is located an hour from the university, which gave him a chance to get to know them while in commute. No such opportunity to talk at such length with such prominent scholars could ever be possible at a conference. The rector of Central European University even invited Tamas to his house for dinner because of CEU Medieval Radio.

The last of the three podcasters is me. I am the host of the History in Five Minutes Podcast. After nearly two years and 114 episodes, the show has over 1 million downloads. My podcast is less academic than Chris’s or Tamas’s but still contains a historical bent. The topics range from common knowledge about the Middle Ages that is incorrect to a five-part series on the mafia.

Doing the podcast has created a whole side career for me as an author of popular history books. I have built up enough of an audience that I knew I could sell a book if I published it on Amazon. Since 2013 I have published 12 short history books online. Some of the more popular titles include “Lost Civilizations: 10 Societies That Vanished Without a Trace” and “Off the Edge of the Map: Marco Polo, Captain Cook, and 9 Travelers and Explorers that Pushed the Boundaries of the Known World.”

The podcast has also led to other unexpected opportunities. A few months ago Amberley Publishing approached me with an offer to write a book about the history of explorers and adventurers. I would have never appeared on their radar if only for my academic writing. It was podcasting and popular history books that made this opportunity possible.

In sum, neither Chris, Tamas, or I had any special experience when we started podcasting. We simply got in front of the microphone and talked about what we knew. It turned into something much larger than any of us could have ever imagined. Podcasting offers huge opportunities for academics who simply reach out and take it.

Scott Rank is a PhD candidate in history at Central European University. He writes and hosts The Scholarpreneur Podcast 

Is it possible to break into the Medical Science Liaison role without experience?

By Dr. Samuel Dyer

I often get asked the question “Is it possible to break into the Medical Science Liaison role without experience?” 

Yes it is clearly possible because it’s important to realize that everyone started as an MSL for the first time without prior experience (myself included).  The question is- HOW did they do it?  There are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of landing your first MSL role including: 

1) Start educating yourself on the MSL role by reading articles on the role, interview techniques, what to expect on the job etc. You will find a number of free articles at

2) Start to build contacts within the Medical Science Liaison community and with MSL recruiters. One easy way to begin building your contacts is with LinkedIn. Recruiters are an invaluable resource to learn about the role. 

3) Join MSL related LinkedIn groups.  The largest group for MSLs and Medical Affairs is “Medical Science Liaison and Medical Affairs Networkers”.  Contribute to LinkedIn discussions on groups. This will help with networking. 

4) Review multiple job descriptions to familiarize yourself with the role and the verbiage used for the role. Learn the language of the role.

5) In terms of reviewing and applying for roles, focus on roles that are within your Therapeutic Area or Disease specialty ONLY! This will increase your chances greatly and you will be able to position yourself as an expert. Applying for roles in other TA’s is almost a complete waste of time as your application/CV will almost always be immediately discarded. 

6) Join the Medical Science Liaison Society. ( Anyone truly interested in the MSL career should join and get involved with the MSL Society.  As a non-profit, the organization is focused on educating and helping people advance in their careers including landing your first MSL role.  It is a great way to network and also be able to have the search term “Medical Science Liaison” on your CV and LinkedIn profiles. This results in your profile getting noticed and found. 

7) Read “The Medical Science Liaison Career Guide: How to Break Into Your First Role”.  ( This is the first and only book ever published on how to break into the role.  It will show you, step by step, how to search for, apply, and interview for your first MSL role. The book reveals strategies for standing apart from the competition, what hiring managers look for when considering candidates, and what you will need to do to get hired.

Best of Luck to all and if I can help-please reach out to me at

Dr. Dyer has a Ph.D. in Health Sciences and did his medical training in Chicago. He has a Master’s Degree in Tropical Biology (where he studied in the Amazon) and has a B.S. in Biology. Dr. Dyer also completed a certificate program for Executive Leadership and Strategy in Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology at the Harvard Business School.

Dr. Samuel Dyer is the chairman of the board of the Medical Science Liaison Society and has over 13 years of international MSL experience. During his career, he has managed MSL teams and operations in over sixty countries across the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand. He has facilitated the successful launch of pharmaceutical and medical device products for both Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies and small biotechs. 

Dr. Dyer has coached, interviewed, and reviewed the CVs of countless MSL candidates. His insights and guidance have resulted in numerous candidates successfully breaking into their first MSL role.

Alternative Careers for Scientists and Engineers – Patent Law

By Karen Imgrund Deak, PhD; Director of Notre Dame’s MS in Patent Law and Registered Patent Agent

It’s no secret that the academic job market is tight – there simply aren’t enough faculty positions to absorb all of the newly-minted PhDs. Of course, many folks who hold degrees in science and engineering fields have the option of an “alternative” career at the bench in a R&D firm. Another popular option, and one growing in visibility, is for individuals with technical degrees to enter the field of patent law.

There are a couple of options for folks entering the patent law field; the fundamental distinction is whether or not someone has a law degree (JD). Subsequent posts and podcasts in this series will address the role of patent attorneys in the legal world. This post specifically focuses on the impact that PhD-holders can make without spending three more years in law school.

Many law firms will hire people who have PhDs (or sometimes even folks who have a technical background but not a PhD) to work on patent applications for their clients. If the person has passed the USPTO’s Patent Bar examination (formally, the Examination for Registration to Practice in Patent Cases), but is not an attorney, they can call themselves a Patent Agent. Even if someone has not passed the exam, they may still be able to get a job at a law firm as a technical specialist, patent scientist, or some similar title. Patent law is a very specialized subpart of the law – hence its own separate exam with different requirements than state bar exams – and one that is not well-understood by either clients or non-specialist attorneys. 

Patent agents, technical specialists, patent scientists, etc. are all tasked with helping the firm’s clients get patents. Getting a patent requires a series of discrete steps: understanding the invention, writing and filing a patent application, and then negotiating with the Patent Office to convince the Office that the inventor actually deserves a patent. Additional layers of complexity can come from managing patent applications for the same invention in multiple countries around the world; and also from managing multiple, closely-related patent applications from the same inventor. 

Once someone has passed the Patent Bar and become a patent agent, they are qualified to participate in all of these steps. Patent attorneys can do all of these things as well as additional work: writing contracts, or performing due diligence for a company, to name only two. In practice, however, a good patent agent or patent scientist often does these types of work, too – the work is just reviewed and signed off on by an attorney before it goes to the client.

Patent agents work both in law firms and in R&D-based companies. Patent agents at firms do very similar types of work at any firm – they help clients get patents. Patent agents who work in companies may help the company get patents; or they may alternatively oversee the company’s patent portfolio by “harvesting” inventions from the company’s researchers and then managing an outside law firm as the firm does the actual work of getting the patents.

If a person is considering a job as a patent agent, the competition is getting more and more intense. On the bright side, however, good, qualified patent agents are always in demand. So, what can one do to increase their chances of getting hired? Have a killer resume, cover letter and elevator pitch, of course; show some engagement with the patent system, if possible. There are also a series of post-PhD programs coming online to help with the transition – the MS in Patent Law and related offerings at Notre Dame, and a MLS of Patent Practice at Arizona State, among others. In general, these are programs of short duration and high intensity, which prepare their students by teaching the skills that a Patent Agent will use on a daily basis. Notre Dame’s program has seen high demand for our graduates. 

Law firms especially have, in my experience, been very enthusiastic about hiring trained, competent Patent Agents. The salary for a Patent Agent is generally lower than for a patent attorney (but still completely liveable, and generally a multiple of what a post-doc position would pay); and they specialize in a niche field of law which is growing in importance. 

I welcome any inquiries about a career as a Patent Agent, even if you’re just starting to explore and don’t have anyone else to talk to. Feel free to contact me at

Karen Imgrund Deak received her BS in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her PhD in Genetics at the University of Chicago.  She then went on to work at a law firm within their biotechnology patent practice, first as a patent scientist, and then as a registered patent agent.  Currently, she is the Director of Notre Dame’s Master of Science in Patent Law program.  Further information about this program can be found on Notre Dame’s website here: Karen also she continues to practice on a contract basis in addition to occasionally assisting Notre Dame’s Office of Technology Transfer.

Preparing your life science CV for a job in sales

Overcoming the scepticism of a scientist is one of the hardest jobs in sales. Even though your product might be the best on the market and selling at the lowest price, it might not necessarily result in the scientist becoming convinced of its quality and a switch from the product they have been using over the past few years. 

The same can the said in many instances with CVs, although you may have the drive and know-how of the technical side of the scientific market, competing with someone that already has experience within the field can affect your chances of securing a position in sales and any job for that matter. 

However, although you may not have experience in managing accounts or following what is standard business protocol (something that all scientists can learn in an afternoon) tailoring your CV to focus on some key areas of strength can separate you from the crowd and give you the opportunity to interview for positions.

Tailoring your cover letter

Your cover letter will more than likely will be the first place you can make an impression on your future employer and therefore it is essential that you DO NOT USE a generic set of paragraphs to describe your experience. 

  • If possible mention your understanding of the company’s portfolio and how you have an in-depth knowledge of their competitors 
  • Describe how your experience relates to the position and how you can implement your skill set to be successful in this position
  • Describe how successful you have been in your career; I understand no one likes boasting, but demonstrating competitive edge through success can show how career driven you are and more than likely will be an asset to the company

Roles and responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities section in your CV will be a determining factor if you have a skillset to get the job. Therefore putting a lot of effort into this part of the CV is essential. 

  • Although we will all have “project management” experience from out PhDs and Post-Docs, going into a little more detail will give your perspective employers more insight into how great you really are
  • If possible, discuss how your project management was a success and discuss what the goals, objectives and outcomes were  
  • Including some business phrasing in your roles and responsibilities without sounding too cliché will also resonate with your employer who may not be used to scientific terminology and phrasing

Further training and outreach

This can be one of the most important sections of your CV as it demonstrates how diverse you can be as an employee. After multiple years in the lab you will be branded as purely a scientist, however, listing training that was not purely science based can demonstrate how you can take other concepts on board. Further training will also give your employer some information on where your future career ambitions may lie. 


Nothing screams success like winning awards. As we all know winning awards tells us that you were better than your peers and had the drive to succeed at a certain task. No matter what the award is, as long as it shows that you have a competitive edge, place it in your CV. If you have space take it one step further and explain why you won the award and how that success helped your achieve more. 

Hopefully most of this makes sense and although not all will apply, writing a well-structured CV will separate you out from most candidates and hopefully secure you that interview.

Seán Mac Fhearraigh received his Bachelor’s in Genetics from Trinity College Dublin and his PhD from University College Dublin and carried onto to do a Post-Doc at the University of Cambridge. He is currently online marketing manager and sales representative at and founder of the PhD and Post-Doctoral advice, you can find Seán on twitter with @PostPostDoc1

Post-Doctoral Fellowships: Even More Grad School-y than Grad School

I never wanted to do a post-doctoral fellowship.  Despite the title of my book, Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School, there was a lot I liked about grad school.  And a post-doc just sounded like everything I hated about grad school (long hours, low pay, no respect, no defined end date) and none of the parts I liked (classes, teaching opportunities, camaraderie with classmates, beer).

But in my field, Molecular Biology, it’s practically a given that you’ll either (a) do a post-doc or (b) abandon the field entirely and live on an art commune in Montana.  Granted, there are different kinds of post-docs—academic post-docs, industrial post-docs—but every research job seemed to require an additional 2-6 years beyond the Ph.D., toiling at the bench 12 hours a day, the only reward being an annual salary of $30,000 instead of $26,000.

I started asking everyone I knew:  “Is there a way to…skip the post-doc?”  It was like asking whether I could skip brushing my teeth.  Yes, um, technically, I could do it—but I’d only be hurting myself.

As graduation neared, I found a job at a small biotech company, where I’ve now worked for more than five years.  The company was small enough, they told me, that they couldn’t really hire me as a post-doc because I’d be the only post-doc at the company.  So they’d hire me under the ambiguous but not-a-post-doc title “Scientist,” and hey presto, I skipped the post-doc.

Don’t get me wrong; I can certainly see the value of a post-doctoral fellowship.  It’s a transitional time to develop the necessary skills you’ll need as a scientist—overseeing your own project, learning important research techniques, writing grants, and, most importantly, familiarizing yourself enough with an entire field to identify the next problems that need to be solved.

But I’m still secretly glad I didn’t do one.

About the author: Adam Ruben is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and molecular biologist. For over a decade, he has performed at clubs, colleges, and private venues across the country, including at some of the best-known storytelling shows and comedy clubs. He is the author of Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School (Random House, 2010), a satirical guide to the low points and, well, lower points of post-baccalaureate education.

Social Media 101: Grad Student Edition

The job search today is more competitive than ever, even for graduate students. And as a grad student, learning how to stay competitive during your job search can be last on your list – especially with theses and dissertations on your minds. Fortunately this is where social media can come into play and help you leverage your brand, skills, and research expertise during a job search.

Recruiters and hiring managers are looking toward social media to source job candidates. In fact, 92% use or plan to use social recruiting this year, with this number consistently increasing. But this isn’t the only group infiltrating the social space – other job seekers are there too. If you’re not there, someone else may be there to replace you. 

Here are a few tips, tricks, and suggestions for optimizing your social media presence in your post-grad or post-doctorate job search:

1. Optimize your social profiles for your job search.

In the world of social media, your bio section is prime real estate for reaching interested audiences. By creating an intriguing, professional, and short bio on Twitter or LinkedIn, you’re letting people know your specialties and interests right off the bat. You don’t want to confuse employers though, so be consistent with your branding across social media platforms. Include keywords that an employer is likely to search for when looking for job candidates.

2. Use past classmates and colleagues as job connections.

While you’re in school, you’re constantly meeting new people in your courses, during assistantships, at conferences and presentations, and sometimes while you conduct your research. Consider connecting with this large group of students, professionals, and professors on spaces like LinkedIn and Twitter. 

You can even use free tools like Jackalope Jobs to magnify these connections into possible job connections. Simply log in with your Facebook or LinkedIn profile and begin searching for jobs. What’s great with this tool is that you can instantly see whom you’re connected to at each job posting and potentially reach out to connections if you’re interested in applying. 

3. Join the world of Twitter chats.

Twitter chats are interactive conversations on a specific topics hosted at a specific time on Twitter, typically surrounding a hashtag. You’d be surprised how many weekly or monthly Twitter chats exist, and some may be in your field. You can find full, but not always all-inclusive, lists of Twitter chats here and here. Never underestimate the power of networking on Twitter!

4. Make your resume pop on the web.

Figuring out how to translate research experience to your resume or cover letter can be frustrating. But have you ever considered visualizing this for employers? Consider using VizifyPrezi, or Storify to showcase your accomplishments and resume visually, while linking this on your other social media platforms.  

If you’re more interested in visualizing your research data specifically, but don’t have the creative chops, there are some great free resources you can use to showcase your work. Websites like, or help you create infographics for free with the click of a button. These tools are also great for non-designers and include premade templates to help get you started.

These are only a few tips and resources to help you successfully stand out from the crowd during your post-grad job search. While social media can certainly expand your reach, don’t forgo your traditional efforts such as phone calls, handwritten thank you notes, and meetings over coffee.

What unique strategies have you used to optimize your social job search?

Kristen Wishon received her Master of Science in Journalism from West Virginia University, focusing her research on health communication. She is currently the Digital and Community Coordinator at Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. You can find Kristen on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Making the Leap from Academia to Industry: How to Set Yourself Apart from Other Candidates

I have been working in industry for a few years now, and students ask me the same question that I was struggling with during my job search: “How can I get a job in industry if I don’t have industry experience?” Like many other students, I had my heart set on an academic career path when I was in college.

I spent my undergraduate summers working in the labs of a Nobel Laureate, and I went straight to graduate school after my Bachelors. As an enthusiastic first-year student I set out to learn everything I could about my field to prepare myself for a faculty position. Within a few years, however, it became clear that the academic job market was, to put it mildly, saturated. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies were springing up in my area looking to hire bright young minds. There was only one problem: all job descriptions required prior industry experience. 

The reality is that employers prefer that you have industry experience, but if you have the right skills for the job, you have a good chance of getting an interview, and maybe even an offer. I was a postdoc for three and a half years.

I did not have any industry experience, but towards the end of my postdoc I received several phone calls from recruiters. I was also active in professional societies, and I followed up over email with potential employers a few times a year. My networking efforts paid off and I got calls from my industry contacts for recent job openings. When there is an opening in industry, employers need someone fast. Timelines and budgets are tight, and the sooner they can hire someone the faster they can meet their goals.

Even more important, they need the right person. The right person does not only know science well, but he or she has leadership qualities. If you are a PhD in industry, there is a good chance you will have direct reports, so employers will screen for candidates who have demonstrated that they can lead research projects. If you have not held leadership positions in research, be sure to emphasize in your application how you contributed intellectually to the development of your thesis, any mentoring experience (e.g. teaching assistant, training younger graduate students) as well as any officer positions in student organizations. 

Whether you are just out of academia, or you have been out of the workforce for some time, here are some ways you can set yourself apart from other candidates:

  • Attend networking events, especially within your professional organization
  • Follow up with potential employers after the event (do not send your CV just a “it was a pleasure to meet you”. If you are looking for a job already, ask if you may send them your CV).
  • Contact recruiters (they frequently attend career fairs and networking events), and follow up with them a few times a year.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile, and add relevant contacts to your network. If you know professionals from networking events or recent graduates from your department, be sure to add them too.
  • Join LinkedIn groups within your field. Increase your visibility in these groups by contributing to the discussions, or starting your own thread.
  • Check out the following group if you are looking for alternate careers:
  • Make your own website (e.g., or as similar to your name as possible), which includes details about professional experience, publications and leadership roles. This site will be key to your professional image, especially during your job search (make sure you continue to update it after you get your job).
  • Polish your Facebook profile if needed (I know people who did not get jobs because of embarrassing photos on Facebook, or they got fired because of them).

Yes, getting a job is a full-time job. If you have the right skills, by all means apply to jobs even if you do not have industry experience. Most importantly, tailor your CV and cover letters to the employer, and emphasize what value you are bringing to the company. Why are you the solution to their problem? Think like the hiring manager: if you had 30 seconds to look over the CV, what would you want to see? Important information has to be easily visible.  Applications can take days to put together. If you cookie-cut them, they will end up in the recycling bin. In your cover letter (and any email correspondence you have with potential employers and networking contacts), focus on what the company needs and how you can help them. 

The following excellent books have even more ideas for landing a job in this tough market:

  • Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0 by Jay Conrad Levinson and David Perry
  • Career Distinction by William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson
  • Get the Job You Want Even When No One’s Hiring by Ford Myers

Who Should You Work For?

Many graduate students and post-docs are looking at non-academic career alternatives, and the opportunities abound. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, fewer than half of all PhDs will hold tenure-track positions.  But life outside the academy can be hugely rewarding and PhDs can find jobs in development, marketing, sales support, administration or management that go beyond bench work or basic research.  And there are a wide variety of jobs in different types of companies: for profit, non-profit, industry, government, military, consulting and on and on.

What’s the best place for you? People look for different things in a job: one person might want to change the world, while another just wants a paycheck.  What do you want out of a job?I put together an online questionnaire based on Tamara Erickson’s “archetypes of work-related passions” from her book Plugged In (Harvard Business Press: 2008).  (I have changed some of the questions and renamed her personality categories.) By taking the quiz you can determine your work personality and get suggestions about what kinds of organizations are compatible with your work style.

It’s a short quiz and should only take you about five minutes to complete.  When you’re done you’ll see your score and links to the kinds of organizations where you’ll best fit in.

Take the quiz now…

About the author: Doug Kalish is an educator, consultant and serial entrepreneur with a PhD in biology who has founded or been an early executive in four companies.  In the summer of 2011, he began “dougsguides” to help college students make the transition from academia to the business world.  He now devotes most of his time touring college campuses spreading the dougsguides message. 

Have You Googled Yourself Lately?

Some might think it narcissistic, but Googling yourself gives you a glimpse of what the rest of the world sees when someone is interested in discovering more about you.  In social situations, like after a first date, the consequences of unflattering search results can be embarrassing to be sure (oh, that’s why they never called me back…).  However, the real danger is the damage that can be done in professional situations like when you are looking for a job and recruiting managers decide to do their due diligence.  That being said, stop reading and Google yourself right now, I’ll wait…

OK, now don’t hyperventilate; everything’s going to be just fine (probably).  Your main focus should be the first page of results that comes up since most people don’t bother going any further than that when casually doing background internet snooping. What you saw on that first page of results can basically be sorted into one of three categories:

  1. “Oh no, I totally forgot that I posted those photos from Cancun on Facebook!”
  2. “Hmm, apparently there is a drug dealer who has the same name as me and their mug shot is the first search result.”      
  3. “Everything is fine, there is nothing that I wouldn’t want my grandmother to see.”

While specific details will vary, there are steps that you can take right now to address each of these situations:

For the situation where you have unflattering pictures posted from one of your social networking accounts, just delete them or make certain that you have your privacy settings set so that only your friends have access to your information and photos.  If it happens to be one of your friends or family that posted an unfortunate picture and tagged you so that it appears in searches, untag yourself or contact them and explain how you would rather not have pictures of yourself be public without your permission.   

If you happen to have a rather common name or are just really unlucky and discover that there are some unsavory characters coming up when you Google your full name, I have some good news and some bad news.  Bad news first: there is really nothing that you can do to take the bad results down.  The good news is that you can send the bad results down indirectly by creating new results that outrank the bad stuff, hopefully pushing your evil namesake off of the first page of results.  How might this be done? Create some new web pages that display your name prominently!

  • Set up a free blog through a site like Blogger.   
  • Do you have a personal website? Get one!  Be a big spender and plunk down $10 for your own domain ( and use a site builder like Weebly or WordPress to put together your website.  
  • Not willing to shell out any money for your own website? There are still other ways to set up free personal sites through companies like,, and  BrandYourself also has the added benefit of walking you through other ways to improve your search results.
  • Are there any social networking sites that you haven’t joined (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Foursquare, etc.)? Join them all and use your full real name when setting up the account.  These companies do a great job of making sure that their accounts show up prominently when people search for names.

Once all of these steps are taken, you’ll be surprised how quickly you and your accounts/web pages dominate the first page of search results.  Even if you don’t have anything negative show up and you fall into that third category of being able to show your search results to dear old grandma, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by taking these steps to show that you are an active member of the internet society (there aren’t that many companies these days that consider technophobes viable candidates).  

The bottom line is that the content on that first page of search results when someone Googles your name is not something to be taken lightly.  In addition to any social consequences of embarrassing search results, there’s also a very real chance that the negative things listed could prevent you from getting that dream job that you’ve had your eye on.  You now have the tools to fix those blemishes so no excuses, hop to it!