If you’re a massage therapy student, you’ve heard it a hundred times already: first impressions matter! So you trim your nails, perfect your handshake, keep your sheets free of stains and design the most adorable business cards known to humankind. First impressions? Check!
Except, this was what constituted your first impression thirty years ago. Nowadays, many of the people you meet will know you first by the impression you make on the internet. And while your massage school almost certainly covered the importance of of showing up at the health fair with your hair off your face and your pants wrinkle-free, not all of them cover how to make a great first impression in cyberspace.
What’s your Google face?
Type your name into the google search bar. What comes up on the first page? Try again with your name in quotation marks. Why? People have different search habits, and you might get different results, especially if either your surname or given name is a common word. Now search your name again as an image search. Try a news search. What comes up?
Welcome to one of your major first impressions.
So what can you do about it? If any of those links are under your control (like your Twitter profile, say), you can edit them to give the first impression you like. If they belong to someone else, your best bet is to create something that ranks higher. This can be as involved as creating your own website (something most massage therapists should do anyway), or as simple as setting up a LinkedIn or Google+ profile or writing a guest post on someone else’s blog. Keep in mind that no search is perfect, and it’s not terrible if there are links to someone in another state who shares your name but not your values. Most folks understand this. The important part is to have a respectable enough online presence to overshadow that little bit of doubt.
Hello, Social Media!
Social media sites like Facebook, Google +, Twitter, Instagram, and the like are great places for massage therapists. You can connect with other massage therapists from around the world, network with people from your community, engage in meaningful conversations that impact the profession, and look at animated gifs of cats falling into bathtubs when you can’t handle thinking about muscle attachments for one more second. But social media is also a world of first impressions. What impressions are you giving?
You might be proud of your abs, but do potential clients need to see a photo of you in your skivvies? Getting plastered at your cousin’s wedding? Protesting at a highly partisan political event? Log out of all your social media accounts and try to stalk yourself. How much is available to the public? If some things are for friends and family only, and wouldn’t be suitable for the Chamber of Commerce set, consider adjusting your security settings accordingly.
Email, don’t e-fail.
It’s so easy to overlook email. When you compare it with all the other ways people connect on the internet, it’s positively antiquated, but it’s still a vital form of communication. This is especially true for massage therapists who are looking for employment. In most cases, you’re going to be sending your resume and cover letter to potential employers using email. Don’t work so hard on crafting your profile on Facebook that you forget to switch from firstname.lastname@example.org to something more appropriate. And while texting your best friend is a great place to say “Luv u, pizza n beer tonite?” spelling, grammar, and general courtesy still holds when sending professional emails.
Also, don’t forget your email signature line. “DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS, Y’ALL!!!!” might have worked for you for a long time, but does it really say, “You should trust me with your body, and pay me to take care of your stress and pain”? If you’re not into the whole quotespiration scene (I’ve used the same Albert Einstein quote for years and it’s served me quite well), just your name and contact information is completely acceptable. Utilitarian? Absolutely. Still better than offending someone with sex, religion, politics, naughty language, or excessive exclamation points? You bet.
It’s not as bad as you think.
Just like everybody has that story about walking into a job interview with two different socks on, nobody has a seamless online presence that speaks only of immaculate professionalism. It’s okay! So somebody who’s really determined to dig up dirt on you can find that petition you rashly decided to sign a few years back, or your awful high school poetry, or your selfies from Burning Man. The longer you work in the massage therapy business, regularly connecting with people on the internet, the more of a professional face you’ll have to show the world. It just takes some self-knowledge, a dash of creativity, and a healthy dose of common sense. Before you know it, you’ll be a confident massage therapist whose first impression is also a lasting one, in all the right ways.
Image courtesy of arturo84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net