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Bosses Facebook, Too: Keeping Your Online Persona Employable

February 14th, 2008 admin


Have you ever googled yourself, just to see what would come up? Well, you might not be the only one.

A few months ago I read an article about how a LiveJournal blog kept one student from being admitted to Reed College in Portland. I looked a little further into it, and found out that over the past year articles about Facebook & MySpace affecting students’ ability to graduate and find jobs after high school have popped up in the Washington Post, U.S. News, and the New York Times. In fact, my own supervisor told me that he googles potential employees before hiring!

Protecting Yourself

With potential employers-and colleges-able to gain access to MySpace, Facebook, personal blogs, and lots of other information online, you need to rethink the “anonymity” of the internet. Here are a couple ideas that may help you protect your privacy online:

  1. Limit Access. Facebook and MySpace both offer options that limit who can view your profile; they also have options that allow people to view only the portions of your profile that you specify. Most blogs have this option, too.
  2. Google Yourself. Seriously. Run a google search on your name, and see what comes up. Try the other popular search engines, too. If there is anything questionable-that includes inappropriate jokes or anything-try to get it taken down!
  3. Guard Your Words. If you have something to say that could possibly taken the wrong way by a potential boss or admissions officer (or anything that is too personal for them to know), you’re better off NOT posting it in a public place. Instead, keep personal comments safer by writing them in more private correspondence like emails or IMs. And if someone else leaves a questionable comment on your page, better make it private or delete it-just to be safe.
    Oh, and if you don’t like your current job or boss, you might want to leave that tidbit out of your profile. Just in case.

Promoting Yourself

Facebooking college committees and employers don’t have to slow you down-in fact, if you play your cards right, it could even be a good thing. Why waste the opportunity to promote yourself if they’re looking anyway?

Think of your social networking sites as dual-purpose-not just as a place to connect with friends, but also as a sort of virtual résumé. It’s totally fine to have appropriate personal info & photos up to share with friends-your future boss will probably still hire you even if you have a penchant for action movies-but don’t neglect to point out your strong points, and even past work experience (if you feel comfortable sharing that).

You can also use sites like Facebook, MySpace, or a personal blog as a portfolio. If you’re an artist or a writer, for example, consider posting some of your pieces for viewing (unless they’re copyrighted by someone else, like work you may have done for a previous employer). It’s an easy way to offer access to your body of work.

photo: cloak 3 by vivre

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. undergrad mind  |  February 14th, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    At my last job they actually told me that they hired me because when they myspaced me I had a private profile (they said it showed discretion), a nice photo (as opposed to the other applicants who sported the typical girl gone wild-esque ones) and I had a nice tagline next to my picture (the quote – “a man is not determined by how quickly he falls, but by how quickly he stands”).

    The moral of this story? I can vouch that employers absolutely do check your profiles. And remember that they can always view your default photo even when your page is private!

  • 2. Brian,  |  February 27th, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Excellent points. Everyone, and especially students, should take care to gain control of their online presence. Don’t forget, long-lost family members will Google you, too. It’s much better for you if employers, college admissions committees, and Aunt Betty to find your photography portfolio and a blog of political musings than a slideshow of your drunken 21st and a profanity-filled rant about how much you love drugs.

    I always recommend that people have two blogs: one under your real name that you’d want employers to find, and then one under a pseudonym that only your friends know about.

  • 3. Ex University Dean  |  August 1st, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Your advice is terrific. In an electronic age, we must all assume folks will be doing searches to learn about us.

    On a related topic, folks should also have a discrete email address. Humor is fine but, but email addresses or screen names like “drunkandloving it” are not going to help your image or your career.

  • 4. Kaci  |  August 20th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I’ve heard a little bit about this sort of thing but this post (and the comments) really detail it more. Thanks for posting! And I agree with the comment above me. I’ve seen people in my classes give the professor their personal e-mails (some with names such as “bootyliciousgal” and some odd numbers which, depending on the name, seems really inappropriate to do. Plus, we’re provided with school e-mail accounts to make that interaction easier anyways.

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