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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.
People both famous and obscure have learned the risk of posting or otherwise sharing comments online that perhaps would have been better left unsaid. Many of you are probably 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.
In today’s world, the number of people without any online presence is dwindling. Facebook has over an estimated one billion users. Twitter is more popular than ever and LinkedIn has become the social media site of choice for professionals. There are at least 400 categorized social networking sites (SNS) that are globally accessible.
Having such a wide range of platforms on which to share your thoughts, ideas, words and pictures can be very conducive to a job search, of course. Active participation on SNS builds your network, exposes you to a wide audience of potential employers (or people who know potential employers), permits you to share work product on an ongoing basis (if not in real time) and enables you to source employment opportunities.
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:
- Don’t drink and drive. Or post on Facebook. Or Tweet. We can’t stress this enough. Trust us, it’s not pretty. Ever.
- There is a significant difference between “reaction” and “response”. And even that difference may not be enough to save you if you’ve said something you ought not to have said. Like what, you ask? Well, perhaps anything that you would expect an apology for if it was said to or about you.
- One can have too many friends. Many people wrongly believe that their Facebook page is personal, private, confidential. You really can’t protect your content from being viewed by anyone you don’t know/distributed without your permission and knowledge. Once your info is captured by someone else via, for example, a screen shot, you have absolutely no control over where it may end up.
- 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.
- If there are people in your life (e.g., “Mom”) whom you block from accessing your Tweets or your Facebook wall, to name just two, you might want to reconsider why. If the content of what you post or share is such that you don’t want certain people to see it, then you probably shouldn’t post or share it at all.
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.