While it may or may not be true that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, there is no question that what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet…As in forever, readily available to anyone with even a modicum of understanding about how to conduct an online search.
All professionals in the age of social media, actively job hunting or not, are wise to pay close attention to their social media presence and actively take control of the image they present to the world through online reputation management efforts.
People both famous and obscure have learned the risk of posting or otherwise sharing comments or photos online that perhaps would have been better kept private. Once personal information or unflattering activity are exposed on the internet, online reputation management becomes exponentially more challenging.
Almost all of us are familiar with someone who has made a mistake on the Internet which has, at best, only caused embarrassment and, at worst, harmed a relationship, damaged a reputation, or ended a career.
Or perhaps even ended a job search.
Creating an online persona has potential risks that may come back to haunt you in any number of ways and online mistakes can doom your job search. The very last time you want to be worrying about online reputation management is when you have already missed out on job opportunities because of a damaged reputation. That is why proactive reputation management is so important.
On the positive side, having such a wide range of platforms on which to share your thoughts, ideas, words, and photos can be very conducive to a successful job search, of course.
Active participation on social media builds your network, exposes you to a wide audience of potential employers (or people who know potential employers), permits you to share work products on an ongoing basis (if not in real-time), and enables you to source employment opportunities.
But, these same online options can also doom a job search before it even starts if you forget some of the basics about how to protect your reputation online:
Facebook, Twitter, and the like are not secrets. Employers often use them as a pre-hire screening device. Controversy exists over whether this is legal or ethical. The discussion is merely academic.
If an employer uses information available on your social media pages in a decision not to hire you, it’s unlikely you’ll ever know. Speculating that it happened will be of little comfort to you.
On the Internet, you are free to post anything you want. You are not, however, guaranteed to be free any consequences that arise from any mistake you make.
Your job search should never give someone else the opportunity to LOL.