As the private you becomes increasingly public, image control, or personal branding, has become a necessity for anyone who wants – or wants to hold – a job. Twenty years ago, if an employer wanted insight into an employee’s personal life, he had to hire a private investigator. Today, he can log into Twitter or Facebook, because most people forget who might be reading and splash their personal lives out for the world to watch. They delight in exposing their own debauchery, never imagining that their next promotion might hang on an errant tweet.
Everybody’s heard the story of the infamous new Cisco hire, “theconnor,” who became the poster child for web faux pas by twittering “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”
This story might not have legs had Cisco not been listening. But they were, and responded “Who is the hiring manager? I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.” Legendary image fail. Even though “theconnor” Twitter account was immediately set to private, it was already too late. Dedicated net crawlers soon ferreted out his identity and exposed him like he was a family values politician having an affair. Did he (or she) lose the job before it started for a careless remark? Don’t really know. I hope not, but regardless, the tale is cautionary. Everything you put on the web can be seen by a potential employer, by participants in a court case, by the police, and by your mother. Or, if you happen to be a gold medal swimmer, by the sponsors who pay you big bucks for your squeaky clean image. If you don’t pay attention, someone else will.
Some tips for controlling your image:
- Reserve your real name for personal branding. Put the pictures of you and the college beer bong or the personal ad describing your manly prowess under an alias if you must post them. As a rule, if you don’t want your boss to see it, don’t put your name on it.
- Bear in mind that whatever you put on the web for others to see can come back to haunt you for years. The beer bong picture may be hysterical today, but not so funny five years from now when you want a six-figure job as CIO of a major corporation.
- Use your social media platform to put out positive messages about yourself, your job, and your career goals. Sure, it’s ok to talk about what you had for lunch or your cat’s trip to the vet, but throwing in some enthusiasm for your job, your company or your project can be pure career gold. Also remember that messages are time stamped and the boss can see that, too.
- Watch your tone. Nobody likes to work with a whiner. Especially when searching for a job. Even if you don’t directly attack or complain about a past or current employer, a barrage of snide comments may portray you as a whiny blame-shifter and make you less attractive to a prospective employer.
Google yourself often. If you’ve got any errant derogatory tweets or Facebook comments coming up at the top of your search, or if you don’t even exist as a search, get busy. Put some positive stuff out there to negate anything that might be detrimental. Think about how you want your employer to see you if you’re up for a promotion. Decisions between key employees often come down to personal factors, so a positive, proactive online image is critical to your career at every stage. Control what people know about you before you wind up the butt of the next viral internet joke.