October 18, 2012

The Naked Tell All: Career Suicide

It takes a lifetime to develop a good reputation. It takes a moment of indiscretion to destroy it. In a nano-second you can make yourself virtually unemployable… unattractive to potential employers. The prospect of hiring someone who has the bad judgment to share controversial opinions, racy pictures, or out right rants on the web is not someone that is a good candidate for a company that values its reputation. When a company hires you they are trusting that you will not offend clients or customers – that you have good judgment. After all you are the face of the company.

So what are the things that you shouldn’t share or post on the web? The same things you shouldn’t talk about at a formal dinner: religion, politics, sex, alcohol, and the details of the last wild party you attended. And yet people do talk about inappropriate topics in both forums. They drop their inhibitions and blather on about their personal beliefs, controversial attitudes, and wild behavior, thinking everyone else agrees or is amused. People also share pictures they should not share. A picture is worth a thousand words and nothing says bad judgment like a shocking picture. This is lethal for your career.

Even when you think everyone you know or meet agrees with you – they don’t. Even when you think no one is looking – someone is. Even when you think no one is listening – they are. Even if you think it is a good idea to bare your soul or your body in public – it is not. It is a really bad idea that will surely come back to haunt you.

What seems like a good idea when you are young, drunk, or recklessly impulsive can be a really bad idea if you take a moment to think about the long-term consequences. You don’t just have to worry about what you post, you also have to worry about what other people post about you. It doesn’t take the FBI to find the dirt on anyone these days. You need look no further than Prince Harry to know how bad an idea it is to romp around naked when everyone on earth has a video camera in his or her pocket. Or a current presidential candidate thinking he was in a safe environment speaking his mind about the “47%”.

Over exposure is an epidemic. On the web you are exposing yourself. If it is posted people will find it.

I grew up in a small town where everyone knew you, your family, and all of your business. The neighbors watched out the window to make sure the kids were safe and that no one was doing anything stupid or dangerous. If you got into trouble or had a problem, your parents knew it before you walked in the door. The people who called my parents were protecting me – not exposing me.

We try to connect on the web in the same way that people in a small town connected. To create a feeling of community in a fast paced world we post our pictures and our thoughts. It becomes a problem when you share things that are best kept personal… that is why they call it personal… The trade in personal secrets only serves to damage your future.

The small town I grew up in was locked in time and there were no pictures or permanent evidence of youthful indiscretions. Today your mistakes follow you forever!