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Keeping your Internet profile clean November 20, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

As a professional it is so important to keep your online profile clean. A careless comment in a blog, a website publicizing an illegal or questionable pastime, or a racy photo on MySpace can really hurt your chances of landing a good client or job – not to mention generating lots of gossip among those who know you. It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t think about this.

I attended my twentieth high school reunion last year, and everyone was talking about how one of the guys was a “pervert” because he had posted a picture of his johnson on MySpace. This was just recently impressed on me again when one of my clients asked if I knew a certain translator who had applied for an in-house job because they became wary after viewing his MySpace page.

According to May 2008 article in the Washington Post, Keeping Your Profile Clean, “a recent survey by ExecuNet, a networking organization for business leaders, found that 83 percent of executives and corporate recruiters research job candidates online, and 43 percent have eliminated a candidate based on search results. Even if you’re not in the market for a new job, it’s a good idea to clean the skeletons out of your digital closet.”

The author suggests doing a Google search “to pinpoint any negative hits you’d like to remove.” She also talks about setting up a Google Alert on your name to keep tabs on your reputation and mentions several other services one could use to improve one’s online reputation. This seems like a lot of work to me. I simply suggest not doing anything to generate those negative hits in the first place.

If you are going to participate in social networking sites like MySpace, Xanga, LiveJournal or Facebook, I suggest thinking before you post. Think of these sites as an extension to your résumé. Ask yourself, “Would I put this information in my résumé or a job application?” A picture of you drunk at a party – or worse – is clearly not a good way to promote yourself. It is also important to make sure that your friends do not post inappropriate pictures or information about you on their sites.

Of the social sites I mentioned, Facebook is a little better, because you can control who has access to your information. You have to “friend” (i.e., approve) someone before the person can have access to your page. However, it is important to remember that many institutions may hire students or have sites themselves and they could request access to your site. And you certainly should not befriend a client on Facebook if you don’t want the client to know mundane details about your life or the fact that you are hung over from the big party last night – especially if you have a big translation due at the end of business. They and everyone else who is linked to you might then be asking themselves what you are doing partying if you have a big job due in the first place. But that’s a whole other can of worms…


1. MT - November 20, 2008

This is an excellent point. Making too much personal information available (over the web, by phone, by e-mail, in person) to potential clients can be a big mistake. Plus, being mysterious can be really fun 😉

2. jillsommer - November 20, 2008

You know, I had almost included a sentence or two about how the Masked Translator had the right idea because he/she can rant about things with no worry of repercussions 🙂

3. Corinne McKay - November 20, 2008

Great advice! I’ve taken to assuming that my clients can read anything I post online; I think it’s just a reality of working for yourself. Also, not that my life is that exciting, but I a) keep Facebook for friends only and b) keep my profile pretty minimal; I don’t fill out the status update or post pictures of my kid.

I read an interesting story a while ago about a college professor who, in order to bring home the point that you’ve made in this post, displayed compromising photos of his students that he had found on public websites and said “If I can find these, so can your prospective employers!”

4. Susanne Aldridge III - November 20, 2008

I keep thinking about that too. Just with my recent post about customer service I got a little worried because I have come to realize it is more controversial than I thought it would be.
I recommend an alter ego for spare time online activities. It is not because I am trying to hide anything (or maybe I am, ha), it is because “Susanne at Work” and “Susanne in her Spare Time” have the right to exist independently.
I don’t want the CEO of my company to watch me in my shorts on the treadmill – not because it is illegal or embarrassing, but because it private. Same goes for private online activities, be it a rant on a message board or a silly comment – but since this is not possible, an alter ego is a good idea I think.
I have a colleague who once posted a remark on a message board, something like “This guy’s suggestion is as stupid as he looks”. Well, guess what? For the longest time that was the top search result in Google for his name.

5. Ryan Ginstrom - November 20, 2008

Very good post. I run an archive site for the Honyaku mailing list. Just a couple of weeks ago, a woman emailed me wanting me to remove some content she had written over 10 years ago.

I started my website as a joke, and my blog as a personal tool to polish my writing, but lately more and more clients have told me that they read my blog or use my website.

6. Judy Jenner - November 21, 2008

I completely agree; keeping your profile clean is paramount. While I do have profiles on Xanga, etc., all of them have a professional-looking picture (after I had my hair styled!), and that’s it. I don’t really leave comments on those sites; just on translation and Vegas-related blogs and on Facebook, which is all about friends. Even on my Facebook, there are no crazy pictures. I recently heard about a service on NPR — similar to the ones you mention — that clean up your internet life. It was pretty expensive, so of course keeping it clean and professional is a much better way to go! For Facebook (and all others), I don’t accept anyone as a friend who I don’t know in real life.

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