Thursday, May 27, 2010

The "lack" of online presence could hurt you in a job search (you still can be mixed up with someone else); would abstinence even work?

Here’s an MSN story on online reputation and job hunting, “Brand or BE Branded: Are you willing to risk it?”, by Career Expert J.T. O’Donnell, link here.

We used to think of branding as a concern of big companies, enforcing their trademark rights from domain name squatters, No more.

O'Donnell's piece is a sobering article. It tells a story of a young woman with great academic credentials getting no traction in the job market after graduation. It then talks about her Facebook page. Her Facebook photo was homely, but not distasteful. But there was nothing positive, about her field of study, about volunteering, or anything professional.

What’s worse, in this commentator’s account, is that a search engine call on her name returned her Facebook profile with controversial (and workplace inappropriate) blog postings from someone with the same and first and last name, but different middle initial. He thinks hiring managers don’t notice that this is from a different person.

Is this “fair”? Of course not. What does Donald Trump always say on The Apprentice, life’s not fair.

Certainly, HR departments ought to grow up. They shouldn’t judge candidates on incorrectly done searches, or on Facebook Wall contents, largely written by other people. (Right now, I’m pretty permissive about what’s on my Wall.)

But we have a real world, where technology moves more quickly that does the ability of people to even begin to grasp the implications of it.

There’s also the “abstinence” question (raised by Mayer-Schonberger in his recent book “Delete” about digital memory; see my Books blog May 13). Some years back, I proposed the idea of “online abstinence” for people in certain sensitive positions. That seems totally infeasible if everyone needs to brand himself online. Yet the current furor over Facebook privacy controls and Facebook’s just-announced plan (as per Mark Zuckerberg yesterday) to offer a “private” presence for those who want one, could bring the concept back.

O’Donnell suggests putting up enough professional-related content in searchable areas (respecting confidentiality and trade secrets, of course) to make sure the first six to eight search engine results on your name are “positive”.

No wonder companies like Reputation Defender (Michael Fertik)are around. Online reputation management might become a growing “IT field”.

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