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Mike Tyson. Alex Rodriguez. Lance Armstrong. All of these top athletes share an experience of overcoming bad reputations and continuing to build successful careers.

Bottom line: everyone makes mistakes. You may have had a minor run-in with the law, been fired from a previous job, or gave a potential employer a bad impression in the past.

The important thing to do is move on — focus on what your true value is and find work in sports that’s meaningful to you. The first step to moving forward is knowing how to overcome bad experiences and prove that you still deliver value to employers.

Follow these simple steps for overcoming a rocky past and building a bright future:

Understand Your Online Reputation

Start by researching yourself through major search engines, like Google and Bing. Why? Because, according to our survey, 22 percent of employers say the first thing they do when they get your application is search for you online.

When you assess your online reputation, you can identify what areas you want to improve and determine how to highlight your positives. Open an incognito tab in your browser then type your name into Google.

This window can be opened from the drop down menu under you custom control settings and allows you to search in a private browser that is not affected by your search history or your ‘cache.’  The incognito tab is important because without it, your results could be skewed by your previous web activity.

Look at your full name and variations of it. Use different phrasing and ordering, such as the following:

  • First name, last name
  • First name, middle name, last name
  • Last name, first name
  • Last name, middle name, first name

Then, add variations that include your profession. For example, if you want to work in sports media and you have work experience in public relations, search for ‘first name, last name, PR.’

Review the top results on your Google page and ask yourself — Is this what I want potential employers to see?

If the answer is no, consider what you want them to find out about you during a simple search online. It’s especially important to determine what results you want to show if you find your bad rap in the first page of results.

Create Good Content to Push Out the Negative

Similar to how businesses and employers are damaged by negative reviews online, your bad reputation, as a job seeker and as a professional, will hurt your chances of finding work in sports.

This is where personal SEO comes in. It’s the best solution for overcoming a bad reputation because it’s a practice of sharing who you are and showcasing your strengths and expertise.

Create and share good content to outrank your bad results on search engines. One of the best ways to do this is by starting a sports blog and writing articles on it. Write content through other platforms too, like Linkedin or Medium. The more often you create awesome content and optimize keywords like your name, the better your results will be.

Also, review your social media profiles and clean them up. Remove any photos that might shed negative light on you and take down controversial statements that might seem reckless.

The best way to keep in the loop is by setting Google Alerts. Simply create an alert for keywords and phrases associated with you, such as your full name or a previous employer. Everytime your keywords are mentioned in a new posting or website, you will be notified.

Get Social Online and Offline

As you manage your online reputation, remember that you’re not running away from mistakes or negative past experiences. You’re actually defining yourself clearly to potential employers by showcasing what value you can bring.

When you create content through a blog or other platforms, you’re further establishing yourself as an expert. Creating content is just half the effort though. You also want to share it and engage in discussions online. Not only does creating and sharing industry content help with pushing negative results down, but also it gives employers a better idea of your skills and levels of knowledge.

Being social online and offline is equally important. In fact, our survey found that 64 percent of employers prefer candidates who join industry professional organizations.

Research professional organizations that align with the work in sports you’re interested in, then join these groups. Attend events and engage in discussions through social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Address the Bad Upfront

Don’t be surprised if a potential employer asks about your bad rap during a phone screen or interview. It’s important to not hide from it or pretend like it never happened.

No matter what your bad rap entails, you can turn that into a positive opportunity. Determine a proper response to the situation before you speak with potential employers.

Emphasize three points:

  • You take full responsibility for your actions
  • You learned a lot about yourself from the experience
  • You are focused on building your strengths and delivering value in your career

Employers respect candidates who are open and honest about their past. They will appreciate your focus on growth and moving forward. They may even want to give you that second chance you always wanted.

Is a bad rap is hurting your chances of finding work in sports? Tell us about how you’re overcoming it.

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