Keep Your Boss Out Of Your Underwear Drawer

June 19, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Reputation Management

The kids who grew up in Facebook, MySpace and in the Social Web are getting older. And as they do and attempt to find jobs, the sheer mass of online reputation problems could keep many of us in business for a very, very long time (thanks YouTube!). Or, it could create an environment where ORM isn’t a concern since everyone has an issue. If we all have skeletons, then no one does, right?

Over at WebProNews, Chris Crum started a good conversation, wondering aloud:

  • Will we ever get to the point where reputation management actually becomes less of an issue?
  • At what point (if any) will employers, schools, etc. accept the fact that questionable material is simply the norm, and let it have less of an impact on decisions like hiring and admission? What is more likely – this kind of tolerance, or an increased sense of responsibility among people (especially the young)?

Chris’ post features some good insight from marketers like Andy Beal, Lee Odden, Greg Jarboe and Dave Naylor, so you should definitely go check it out. However, I do want to share my own thoughts here.

Do I think we’ll ever get to the point where our online reputation becomes less of an issue and something we don’t have to worry about?

Not a chance. Those days are long gone.

We’re living in a searchable world. It doesn’t matter if it’s Google or whatever replaces it, employers have now become savvy about using the Internet as the ultimate employee background check. And that means they’re going to use whatever is in their means to find out who you are, what you’re about, what you’ve done and, if you let them, how you spend your free time. They don’t have any other choice, especially as companies are being forced to become more social. They need to know that you’re going to be able to adequately represent their brand. They have to know who they’re hiring. Sure, they may come to overlook photos of you glassy-eyed and holding a big red plastic cup, but if there’s a photo of you drunk and naked riding a mechanical bull (really Dave? Really?), that testimony can and will be used against you. Stupid is stupid and not everyone is okay with offering that a paycheck.

As for the second question, I wouldn’t wait for employers to become more tolerant or to pat you on the head and realize that we were all in college once. If they find something negative about you, even if they’re trying to be above it, it will cloud their judgement. The responsibility is on you to be presenting the image of yourself you want people to see. You need to be proactive about building your online reputation. The same way you have to create a resume and prepare for a job interview, you need to take control of your vanity search.

You are who your vanity search says you are.

And, I’m sorry, if you’re playing around in the world of social media, that means you should be Internet savvy enough to realize this is something you have to worry about. If you’re uploading drunken videos to YouTube, you’re Web literate. You know how to perform a Google search. So, yes, the responsibility is on you.

I’d hope that if I was someone just entering the job market right now (God, I feel old…), that I’d be smart enough to understand the magic of privacy settings and covering my tracks. I’d be looking for resources like Outspoken’s online reputation management guide. I’d be out there building and protecting my personal brand. I’d be establishing my home base on the Web to promote the sites that I do want people to find. Because if you leave a nice trail of good stuff waiting for people, they’re often less likely to go rogue and look under the mattress. It’s the same reason why kids in high school clean their rooms. They’re trying to keep Mom from finding what’s behind the neatly folded boxers. And it works.

The need for online reputation management will not decrease. It’s only going to become more important, especially as those who grew up actively ruining their SERP now try to get a job. If you can be the candidate that doesn’t have a search page filled with bad content, you stand out. If you can show that while those other candidates were taking drunk photos of themselves, you were doing all the wonderful things that your LinkedIn profile lists, you put yourself ahead. You give yourself an advantage. The future of ORM is that it will become the norm and a necessity, not that it will fade.

Update from Lisa: It’s worth noting that the ORM/hiring issue came up during this morning’s Social Media Breakfast event in Albany. Carrot Creative Co-Founder (and Yankees fan) Mike Germano commented that his company actually insists employees friend him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter so that they can look at profiles (and photos!) to see how candidates are portraying themselves online.  Consider that next time you leave a “good morning, Bitch!” comment on your best friend’s wall. That’s grounds for dismissal in Mike’s world.

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