Where Are You Hanging Your Laundry: Keeping Your Reputation Clean in Cyberspace

In the past, to “put yourself out there” you had to at least leave the house! Now, you are “putting yourself out there” every time you update your Facebook status, send an text or tweet. Leaving your couch, let alone your house, isn’t required. But something so simple can cause significant damage to your reputation. It’s better to “over-think” what you share or create on the Internet, as I did with my first blog post. I wrestled with the idea of admitting to the world that I watched the “Real Housewives.” I finally decided to let that “dark secret” come to light. We all have vices, right? But it’s better to agonize maybe a little bit too much over a photo or a post than to just let everything fly on the Web without considering the consequences of doing so.

By consequences, yes, you can lose out on a job if you have, say, a less-than-suitable photo on the Web. Employers (including myself) put on their sleuthing caps and search Google to see what the collective Web has to say about a prospect employee. That employee could be you. You could even lose your existing job. But I’ll get to that later.

To avoid such consequences, I recommend three basic steps:

  1. Review your privacy settings. Be it Facebook, Twitter or Fwitter (who knows what’s next?), you can adjust how much your family members see versus your colleagues. Just remember: Even with the most conservative privacy settings, that drunken photo of you can still get around. No amount of money spent on companies to sweep the Internet of all negative images and references about you will reverse the damage that’s been done after that photo makes its rounds.
  2. Filter yourself. Don’t wait for ReputationDefender to do it for you after the fact. Like a lot of things in life, awareness is a first step. The more you are aware of the importance of how others perceive you on the Internet (and the implications of it), the more you will really think about each statement you put out there. Ask yourself: Does this statement, albeit in a more “personal” forum, really align with my professional image? When in doubt, just leave it out!
  3. Your colleagues are fantastic. Your boss is the best ever. No workplace bests yours! Well, at least on the Internet, that’s the case. Never, ever speak ill of your workmates or your employer on the web. No matter how cryptic and witty you think you are. It will get back. And, depending on your company’s social media policy, by the time it gets back to you, you may just be handed a box and escorted out of the building. You don’t speak ill at your workplace. That’s just unprofessional. So why would you think it “OK” to do it on the web?

 

There is a certain individual named Charlie (last name rhymes with “Green”) who managed to accumulate more than 1 million followers on Twitter … in 25 hours! He used Twitter (among other media outlets) as a mouthpiece to slam his producers, the network, any critics, etc. etc. etc. Charlie’s status as “highest-paid actor on television,” and a resume that includes critically-acclaimed films and box office smashes, didn’t insulate him—he still lost his job. (Before you rail me about the technicalities of whether he was suspended before fired, and all of his history of brushes with the law, his addictions, and his ongoing tango with lunacy, etc, etc. – the point is this. His broadcasting of rants did him zero favors. It exacerbated the issue, and provided ample evidence of his unfitness for continued employment.)

It’s an extreme example, but no one is too BIG or too valuable to be fired. If you air the dirty laundry, don’t expect your reputation to remain spotless.

Be careful out there, my friends!

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