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Broadcast Blues—Your online presence may be hurting your career

Putting your life online can be exciting as well as interactive. I got 49 posts this week wishing me a happy birthday. That was nice.

I got tagged in a photograph, however, that I didn’t want out there. Good, clean fun and no negative impact – yet.

You see, we have gone from written diaries and secret black books back in the caveman days (my early life) to pretty much placing everything out there. Sure, there’s a lot we don’t share, but it appears that confidentiality is about as scarce as secrecy in the American embassy in Moscow.

Let’s say for a moment your Web footprint is expansive and you’re prolific in posts and pictures. I know for a fact that potential employers many times surf the sites to dig out the dirt in your online persona. If you want to work for a firm with a client list as conservative as Bill Buckley and George Will, then don’t post photos of drunken bar crawls or radical demonstrations. You see, a client might believe that your personal life approaches mirror your business approaches. Not saying it’s true, but perception is everything.

A survey from CareerBuilder found that 52 percent of employers research job candidates on social media, up from 43 percent in 2014 and 39 percent in 2013. More worrisome: 48 percent of hiring managers who research applicants on social media said they’ve found something that led them to not hire a candidate. Some of the top turnoffs include:

Provocative or inappropriate photographs: 46 percent
Information about candidate drinking or using drugs: 40 percent
Candidate bad-mouthed previous company or fellow employee: 34 percent
Poor communication skills: 30 percent
Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc.: 29 percent

Discretion is the better part of valor (translation: avoiding a dangerous or unpleasant situation is sometimes the most sensible thing to do). It’s simply a good rule to try to anticipate how a social media post will be perceived and/or interpreted by a viewer. If you have some lingering doubt, it’s best not to post. I’ll conjure up another popular PR saying: When it doubt, leave it out.

While the selfie craze appears a little egomaniacal, it’s easy to understand the excitement of sharing events and happenings with others. Problem is, I don’t know if it’s desirable to share everything with everyone, everywhere. There’s the problem. Ask me tomorrow if I really care about the picture of you in front of the Shedd Aquarium front door. Maybe. Maybe not. Depends.

While it’s hard to fathom millennials cutting back on texts and snapshots for the most part, certainly more “gotcha” moments will cause a few souls to consider the ramifications of spewing forth all that can be said or seen. After all, how will this all look when you revisit the material in 50 years? Remember how hard we laughed at pictures of Grandpa in his overalls and straw hat? Gotcha.

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