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08/23/08
Guard Your Professional Image
Filed under: General, Networking, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 8:24 pm

Someone posted to a listserv I’m in, complaining about the fact that items posted there were getting picked up and re-posted elsewhere.  This prompted a good discussion.  I weighed in as follows:

I’d suggest you think of everything you post to this or any other forum, and your profile and postings on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. as an open book - don’t post anything that you aren’t comfortable having sent to the world. Make sure everything you do contributes to the same professional image you are trying to foster, that you want prospective employers to see.

No matter what safeguards you think are being taken, once you post something there is a potential for it to be found in an internet search, or for someone else to forward it or cut & paste it into something else.  Most of the time this is innocent - someone using what you wrote as an example, or thinking they are being helpful by forwarding it somewhere else. Just assume that will happen, and act accordingly.

Even emails should foster the image you are attempting to achieve. At the very basic level, friends & associates to whom you send emails are part of your network who can connect you to opportunities, and it is important that they have the same professional image you want to promote to those potential employers. And you never know who might innocently forward something you write them (“Hey, Joe, thought you might like to catch up on what Joanne’s been doing”) or to be helpful (”Jim, if you’re ever looking for a top quality recruiter, check out my friend Joanne.”).  And sometimes things get forwarded to the wrong address…

For more on guarding your professional image, check out this article:

http://www.jhacareers.com/GuardYourProfessionalImage.htm

5 Responses to “Guard Your Professional Image”

  1. Barbara Saunders Says:
    Do you think, though, that just as more employers will be looking at these sites, eventually so many individuals will have posted “incriminating” information that this won’t mean much? (E.g., Is “your mama wears combat boots” still an insult?)
  2. John Hadley Says:
    Barbara: No, I think it will always be an issue. It will be a matter of degree and level of damage. An indiscretion many years earlier that isn’t too serious, with nothing substantive in between, won’t be an issue. A pattern of indiscretions ALWAYS will be an issue - it reveals so much about the character and likely future behavior of the candidate. In fact, as more ‘incriminating’ information winds up out there, it provides that much more opportunity for the person who carefully guards their image to really stand out from everyone else…
  3. MP Campbell Says:
    There’s the issue of plausible deniability (as it were). If one has a common name (John Smith), it’s going to be hard for prospective employers to Google your name and find your comments. Any blog comments can be easily faked in terms of ID (and it’s not like they’ll know your IP address). The danger lies in sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, where one is supposed to use one’s real name. Of course, the duplicate name issue still comes up, but given enough identifying info, you can shoot yourself in the foot. There was an article in the WSJ this last week about how college admissions officers were using info from Facebook as a way to filter out candidates (underage drinking pics, comments trashing the college being applied to, etc.) Anything that’s attached to your real name/identity can cause trouble.
  4. Barbara Saunders Says:
    Hey John, I’ve rethought this! I think one of the tricky areas is what constitutes “incriminating.” When I read this, I thought of opinionated posts that might offend someone but actually represent taking a stand. (Does anyone really want a job that requires censoring one’s beliefs?) Yesterday I ran across some of the kind of posts I think you meant, posted photos of people completely drunk, along with graphic captions!
  5. John Hadley Says:
    Barbara: Thanks for weighing in again! I think of it not as whether you must censor your beliefs, but rather whether you show good judgement in how you express your beliefs. I respect people who present beliefs with which I disagree, but do so in a reasoned, non-offensive way. I don’t respect those who present them arrogantly, who shove them down others’ throats, or who are extremely argumentative about them, essentially shouting down all other attempts to have a real dialogue. I think networking contacts, hiring managers, etc. generally won’t be impacted in any lasting way by the specific positions expressed, but rather by how they are presented. The bottom line is that you should always think about what you are posting in a public forum, or in any electronic media, where it can easily become a public forum. John

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