Online Missteps Can Hurt Your Career and Job Search Success

I’ve written before about the need to be careful about what you post online–in any forum, social media site, etc.–because of the potentially harmful effect it can have on your career and/or job search success. I’ve also noted that you need to be aware of what others might be saying about you online, because sometimes you aren’t the one posting the possibly damaging information. Now comes yet another beating of that drum, in the form of an article by Todd Leopold of CNN, headlined “In today’s warp-speed world, online missteps spread faster than ever.” To get a really good idea of what this could mean to your career success, read the full article.

You Can’t Believe Everything You Read Online

We all know that–or should by now. But I was one of those who was caught at first by the report of the banker who supposedly left a 1% tip on a $133 bill at a restaurant. Turns out, like many other things, it was a hoax. At least I didn’t re-post it to all my friends and other contacts, as some people did. The essential point here is that it’s so darned easy to post items online and even have them go viral, without anyone bothering to check their validity. If something is being published online about you–either personally or professionally speaking–you have a stake in knowing about it and trying to correct or offset it.

However, that’s easier said than done. By the time you know you should be doing damage control about a negative online item, it might already have spiraled out of your control. As the article says, “in an increasingly connected world where social networking has made us all news sources, that means missteps and misinformation get issued–and repeated–more quickly than ever.” It goes on to say, “And accuracy? Speed rules, baby….So much for patience. We want the world to listen, and we want it now.”

Intentional versus Unintentional Online Harm to Your Career

In most cases, it’s unlikely that someone will intentionally try to hurt your career success or interfere with your job search by posting negative information about you. Only rarely, if ever, will you encounter someone who has an axe to grind against you and chooses the Internet to achieve it. More likely, any such action springs from carelessness, misinformation or some other lack of clarity on the part of the perpetrator. The fact remains that you now have an issue to deal with that you would undoubtedly prefer to have avoided in the first place, if you could.

As the article notes (quoting Frank Farley, a psychology professor at Temple University), “You can do a fast correction, but it hardly ever has the value of the original.” The best bet–though by no means perfect, obviously–is to make sure you get your facts straight and appropriately worded before you post anything online and to take suitable action as soon as you discover an item someone else has posted about you that isn’t correct.

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