In the May 17, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks whether what we post on the Net can hurt us.
Now that I’m job hunting, I’m taking stock of things I’ve posted around the Net. I wonder if my online writing could hurt my chances of getting hired. I suppose a diligent background check could turn up things I’ve written that could be misread. I also see that certain companies have policies prohibiting their employees from publishing blogs or anything that might reflect poorly on the company. Are we supposed to keep our mouths shut and stop posting online because “Big Brother” might find it? Is it best to use a screen name and to avoid identifying myself?
Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)
…the Net is a great way to hang out with people — there are some great discussion forums to participate in and blogs where you can comment. Done right, it’s a good way to make valuable new contacts, and a way to build a reputation.
I believe the main reason a person’s postings on the Net can create problems is anonymity. If we think we’re anonymous, we’re more likely to post stupidly. How can you seem stupid if you’re anonymous? It’s not difficult, for someone whose job is to investigate you, to map your silly screen name to a similar e-mail address, Twitter account or Facebook page, and through your online haunts, and to track it back to you.
So, don’t be anonymous. Use your real name, or don’t post. Clearly identifying ourselves helps keep us honest — and undoubtedly helps decrease the litter of Internet leavings (and the load of nonsense) on the Net.
I try to practice this not only when I post, but when I judge a posting. If a real name doesn’t accompany a posting, I give it less credence. I want to know who is behind the words. I want to know they’ve put some skin in their statements…
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…In a time when intellectual property (IP) is the real asset, why do people (and companies) want to suppress the identities of those who create that IP?
There will always be dopes who make themselves (and their employers) look bad online. But the potential to build a good, solid reputation across the Net starts with accountability. Anyone who doesn’t believe they leave a persistent image of themselves online has a lot to learn — the hard way. Those who “get it” can prosper because the Net is a phenomenal amplifier of good IP.
I’ll put this more clearly: A consistent, responsible body of useful postings on the Net identified by your real name can gain you the kind of notice that leads to good job opportunities. (Please see this old gem of an article by Susan Raskin: Mining Candidates: How top recruiters really use the Net to fill jobs.)…
…Your privacy is of course valuable. That may be why you decide to use a pseudonym. But, if you have something worth saying, and if you are thoughtful and circumspect, then I suggest you put your real name on your writings. It’s the rare individual who can be proud of the trail he or she leaves. While that trail might attract nuisances, it also attracts opportunities.
You drop stuff all over the Net every time you post a comment on a blog or social networking site. Are your leavings making you look bad? Or, do you drop gold nuggets that suggest you’re a golden goose? (Okay, enough of that metaphor.) How do you account for yourself online?