Does My Reputation Precede Me?

At our Kansas Library Association conference presentation, an attendee asked a very good question: with all of this social networking on the internet, where the personal and the professional often blurs, what happens if a potential employer does an internet search on you and finds things that could be taken badly out of context or just outright makes them not want to hire you?

This has actually happened, hasn’t it? A potential employer finds your Facebook or MySpace page, or old blog posts, or Flickr photos, or what have you, and discovers that you’re a recovering alcoholic or a Fundamentalist Christian or a homosexual or an enthusiastic Doctor Who fan or a swinger or…well, pick something that’s perfectly legal but potentially off-putting or downright offensive to someone somewhere. And this hypothetical employer decides not to hire hypothetical you on the basis of this dug-up information. Should you do everything you can to make your online persona as professionally inoffensive as possible, to make sure this doesn’t happen? Should you lock anything potentially iffy away behind secure, friends-only barriers?

I really don’t have the right answer for you. I have what I think is the right answer for me.

So, I’ll come clean and out myself to the world. On something of a dare, I casually threw the phrase “hookers and blow” into our presentation at Computers in Libraries. And if you listen carefully during the video of the Computers in Libraries Pecha Kucha session, you can hear me yell it out from the audience. It also shows up in the caption of a picture taken of me at the conference. The phrase came from a joke I’d started in Twitter a few days before the conference, although it actually started as a joke between my wife and me. At any rate, by the end of the conference, I was joking that my professional career was over, thanks to my liberal use of the phrase at inappropriate times.

But here’s the thing: if a potential employer does an internet search and finds my professional name associated with the phrase “hookers and blow” and doesn’t bother to find out more of the context…I don’t want to work for them. If a potential employer does know the context and still doesn’t find it the least bit amusing…we won’t work well together, and it’s probably for the best if you don’t hire me.

In my life, I’ve done things I’m not proud of, things I’d do differently if I could. But I’m not going to hide who I am, I’m not going to censor my online expression, just to make sure I don’t put off any and all potential employers. There are people in this world I wouldn’t want to work with or associate with, and I’m not going to waste my time worrying about what they could find out about me that they wouldn’t like. I’ve got bigger yaks to fry.

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10 thoughts on “Does My Reputation Precede Me?

  1. Ah, there’s worse company to be sharing a muse with than that old Kentucky farmer:

    Heartening and necessary work you done there, Goblin.

  2. For a minute there, I thought you were rickrolling my blog post! Phew!

    Thanks for the endorsement and the link.

  3. Josh, you make career suicide look good.

  4. It’s better to burn out than fade away, Steve.

  5. *nods vigorously in agreement*

  6. Well you have gone very far in breaking the stereotype. If someone can shout that out at a conference and everyone’s ok with it, that’s a good thing.

    Of course, there is that other reputation of libraries that this plays into….

  7. Libraries have a reputation involving hookers and blow?

  8. I want to say, Oh, I would never link my bloghood with my real life, like anyone cares… but I’m not coming out of the closet until I have, I don’t know, a book or 1000 subscribers or, I don’t know, but something that makes me bullet-proof. A conference is fun, everyone on a level field, but when my job is at stake, I’m keeping my blogging to myself. It’s too bad though, that I can’t put my pic on my blog because, baby, I’m gorgeous. 🙂

  9. Fortunately I’ve met in you in person so I know all that hookers and blow stuff is true, not just some plow by your enemies to bring you down 🙂

    I have to agree with you, I wouldn’t want to work for someone who wouldnt’ bother with some deeper investigation.

    I do think pretty hard about what i connect to my blog, etc, I”m not sure what the right level is either. Must think more on this, in fact I’ve got a post saved about managing your identity. Off to dust it off, hopefully it will be up next week!

  10. At the interview for the job I just got (wow that’s lousy grammar), one of the people on the panel remarked that she had seen “your website.” I froze for a moment, because that could mean one of about a dozen different sites, blogs, and social sites that I maintain. And while most are OK for public consumption, I couldn’t help but pray that she had stumbled upon my personal blog, with its graphic descriptions of my sometimes crazy life.

    Thankfully she was referring to my Cool Librarian blog, which for the most part is pretty benign. For the most part….

    As for my personal blog, I took some steps about a year ago to disassociate it from my last name and my “Cool Librarian” web presence. Surely, a savvy searcher or librarian could come up with the site in short order, but my main objective was to keep it off the first two pages of a Google search of my name or Cool Librarian (which I just found out didn’t EXACTLY work, but it’s good enough for jazz).

    So, yeah, I gave it some thought, I cleaned up what I needed to, tried to hide what I couldn’t clean up (um, my LIFE), and let the rest go from there. And they hired mr anyway!

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