I reached a turning point shortly after I started reading blogs. After leaving a few comments online, I Googled myself and realized just how public my life would be if I kept on participating in The Writeable Web.
Staying invisible to Google and other search tools is hard, and getting harder. Some of the articles I wrote for my college paper in 1981 are now online. I'm waiting to see some of my more embarrassing articles bubble to the surface as my past catches up with me.
Thankfully, the poetry I wrote in high school has never been posted online. I plan to keep it that way.
While many online tools can be fun to play around with, Susan Crawford looked at the many ways privacy is threatened. And John Wagner and Stephen Silvers warned students to keep their online presence from jeopardizing job opportunities.
These are valid concerns, but if everyone worried that something written in second year university might cost them a job later, nobody would write anything worth reading.
Yes, avoid flamingly stupid public acts, if there's a way to do them privately or anonymously (good luck on staying anonymous). But employees of the future, please don't establish a standard of employability that screens out people who have done some stupid things in their past.
Is a life devoid of potentially embarrassing events worth living? Maybe, but it sounds awfully dull. Hopefully smart companies will look to hire both those with spotless records, and those who are spectacular in their screw-ups.
Employers: if you Google job candidates and find examples of errors in judgment or just plain errors, remember that you have something to gain from hiring people who are willing to take risks. Avoid the bozos who don't have a clue of the impact of their actions, but don't avoid those who show smarts.
I've already made the decision that any future employer is going to have to be okay with my online reputation, or I won't get hired. I can live with that.
See also Recruiting the Millenial Student Using Social Software, by Una Walsh, and Online Party Crashers (New York Times).
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