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Cleaning up your Digital Dirt Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Workopolis.com Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit www.CareerActivist.com.

Cleaning Up Your Digital Dirt

That new video riff of you and your friends doing goofy stuff sure looks good on YouTube. And what about all those photos of drunken action on your MySpace profile? It's all just good clean fun, right?

Right. Until an employer you've interviewed with Googles you, that is. Then whatever trail of mayhem and madness you've left across the Net could turn against you faster than you can make new connections on Facebook.

Now that you're out there job hunting, you might want to give some thought to your online reputation. It's not just other guys and gals like yourself who might encounter your postings. A growing number of recruiters, interviewers and headhunters will search your name as part of their 'due diligence' when making a hiring decision. Is there something lurking in cyber-space you wouldn't want them to find?

Things to consider removing: Profanity and vulgarity, excessive silliness, plus photos and videos that might be deemed, ahem, compromising. Yeah it's a pain tracking all of it down and editing out the offensive parts. Then again, would you rather have that embarrassing scene of you at the big keg party pop up on some hiring manager's desk, just as they're making their final decision on who to present with an offer of employment? Thought not.

So spend a few moments doing a search on your own name, as it appears on your resume. See what comes up and note the citations that link to material which could be troublesome for you. Also, are you listed on Xanga? Hi5? MyYearbook? Review your postings and make sure they're presentable to folks in the working world.

I know, I know. This takes much of the fun out of hanging around online. Shouldn't you be free to create your presence anyway you like? After all, this is the age of virtual democracy. The problem is that a lot of employers take a dim view of having their staff displayed on the Net in outrageous ways. They feel that it may reflect poorly on the company, not to mention the questions it raises in their minds about your maturity and responsibility.

Mind you, some employers do encourage you to freely express yourself Web-wise. Like 'new media' companies where being funky is prized, or in places that serve a youthful market. But what's acceptable at a business like Youthography probably won't wash if you're looking for work at a bank or accounting firm. Keep this in mind the next time you're surfing and have the urge to leave behind your thoughts and pictures. Image management is the name of the game in this, the Internet decade.

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