Your Online Image and Your Career

By Paula Santonocito

And guess what? Since these sites are now part of the mainstream, site audiences include potential employers, as well as your current boss and coworkers.

Information Sharing

Nevertheless, many people do not make the connection.

Take Jenna Jensen (a real person, though her name and a few details have been changed to protect her identity). Jenna is a college student about to graduate with a degree in business. Her MySpace page indicates she has a 3.8 GPA, is president of her sorority, and that she hopes to make a positive impact on the world. Sounds like Jenna would make a great employee, right? Jenna also indicates that she’s a swinger, and she’s got photos of herself scantily clad in provocative poses (these details have not been changed).

Will Jenna be hired? Perhaps, but it may not be as a business professional.

Jenna’s situation is not unique. Steven Rothberg, president of CollegeRecruiter.com, a leading job board for college students and recent graduates, has commented on the issue several times, including at the CollegeRecruiter.com blog, which references an interview he gave to NBC in 2006.

Rothberg’s advice to job seekers is that “they only post information online that they would feel comfortable sharing with their grandmother.”

Understanding the Consequences

Yet, some people, like Jenna, either haven’t gotten the word or have chosen to ignore such advice. Indeed, some users of social networks cite freedom of expression, as they often call it, as their prerogative. This stance could be a risky choice. Like it or not, hiring decisions, as well as career advancement, may be impacted by online content.

Social networking sites are the venues most typically reviewed, but they’re not the only ones.

Every professional should also google (as in the verb, to google) herself and see what turns up. It’s advisable to use both the Google Web search feature for content and Google Image for photos.

Remember, your online image appears on screens worldwide. What kind of professional image are you projecting?

More SMW Career Advice

Hot Careers in a Cooling Economy

How to Negotiate an Optimal Pay Package

I’ve Been Fired, Now What?