Saturday, March 3, 2012

week7o, The Delicate Art of un-Ringing a Bell

The Delicate Art of 
un-Ringing a Bell

Time Feb. 2, 1998, President Clinton greets Monica Lewinsky at a WH event
How many people go through adolescence and young adulthood without making a fool out of themselves, at least once? Who among us does not have something in their past they wished they’d done differently? Can you think of anyone you know who can honestly say that, if they had it all to do over again, they’d do it in exactly the same way? I can count on one hand the number of people I have known in my lifetime who can make any of those claims. Fortunately, for most people memories fade into the background, attentions are diverted, and life goes on. 

Self portraits 'tweeted' by disgraced former
Congressmen Weiner (left) and Lee (right)

There are politicians, like the snap-happy, former Congressmen Anthony Weiner, (D-NY) and Christopher Lee (R-NY), whose scandals forced them out of office. Both men resigned in disgrace after  half-naked images of them- that each had tweeted to women who were not there wives- turned up on the Internet. Their tarnished images only began to fade from the headlines and the public's memories when they did too.

There are a few people whose notoriety makes an indelible mark on the collective social conscience. Their escapades are so scandalous, they become a permanent piece of the infamy of the day. Some of these legendary characters that come to mind are: ax-wielding Lizzie Bordon (see video, below), White House Intern Monica Lewinsky (top, left) and mega-ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff.

As our culture has been transformed by the broad expanse of telecommunications, the Internet, and the Information Economy, new opportunities have opened up for John Q Public to realize the proverbial American Dream. On the same token, being wired to the web holds at least as many opportunities to burn bridges as it does to build them. Some will find that this downside can turn out to be the very thing that stands between them and reaching their pinnacle. The closed door may be just a few clicks away, buried in the buzz of Social Media.

As Liz Harvey, senior director of online products at, outlined in a 2009 article on the company's website, "In this difficult job market, online networking is an important piece of the puzzle for workers wishing to build professional relationships, and ultimately connect with their next great job." (accessed 3/3/2012)

Recruiters and HR professionals who have rejected candidates based on data found online vs. consumers who think
online data affected their job search From: cross-tab Research: Online Reputation in a Connected World. 2010. (p. 5)
2010 survey commissioned by Microsoft, titled Online Reputation in a Connected World, found that "79 per cent of U.S. hiring managers and job recruiters routinely review online reputational information when reviewing job applicants." (accessed 3/3/2012) In the same survey, 70 per cent of U.S. and 41per cent of U.K. recruiter respondents admitted to having rejected candidates based on information they found online, starkly contrasting the respective seven- and nine- percent of consumers who thought online data could affect their job search. (Table pictured above) 

Aspiring college applicants should also take note. Kaplan, the educational resource and training giant, publishes an annual Test Prep Survey. The September, 2011 analysis found, "Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents from the schools surveyed have gone to an applicant's Facebook or other social networking page to learn more about them, while 20% have Googled them." (accessed 3/3/2012) The Kaplan survey also noted that although there were potential pitfalls to be found in an applicant's social networking page, respondents were also looking for strengths, such as creativity and effective communication in a forum "in which teens are comfortable or expert." .

So, how do candidates keep their youthful folly and periodic lapses in judgement from popping up years later on the information super-highway? The most obvious answer is not to put it on the Internet in the first place. Privacy Now TV has a very good 3-minute video with helpful advice on protecting your online reputation. For those who have already 'rung' that proverbial bell, there are steps that can be taken to limit potential future impact on your reputation. The first step, according to communications consultant Lindy Kyzer's website, is "Google yourself. Always my all-time favorite tip for understanding how others might view or find you online." (accessed 3/3/2012).

A google search using the term "cleaning up Internet profile" yielded 84.6 million results, with everything from do-it-yourself advice to large consulting firms who will scour and cleanup your Internet profile, for a fee. After reviewing the first few result pages, the one that seemed to offer the most comprehensive and helpful information was Squidoo. (accessed 3/2/2012) This site outlines what is on the Internet and how to find it. It then gives step by step instructions on accessing, cleaning up and changing the setting on each site to optimize what people may find when they google you.

Benjamin Franklin said over 200 years ago, "It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it." The world is a very different place than it was in the Founding Father's era, but this tenet is as true and relevant today as when he said it.

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