Your Online Writing Life: Protect Your Reputation — and Future (Part One)

Did you know that more and more companies are using Google and other online resources to conduct, in part, background checks on prospective employees? And stories of folks whose employment has been terminated as a result of online activities are plentiful. Today I had a dispute with an individual who contributed a post to the weekly blog carnival I manage, the Carnival of Family Life, concerning my refusal to include his entry because of its content.

All of these factors have inspired me to spend some time in the coming weeks examining how online writers can best protect their reputations — and futures.

Recently, I read with bemusement an article about e-mail addresses at Life and Lawns: What your email address tells me about you on a job application. Allyn, a marketing and sales recruiter, shared some of the email addresses that job seekers have provided as a point of contact. I chuckled at the sheer stupidity of placing an e-mail address such as “screwedup@asdf.com” or “legalizethis@asdf.com” on one’s resume or job application. Sadly, however, Allyn speaks from experience.

He points out that an email address “makes an impression” and counsels readers to think carefully about the address they select. His advise is wise indeed. Business is transacted largely via email these days and the business of securing or maintaining employment is no exception to that rule. In particular, most job seekers place their e-mail address at the top of their resume, directly beneath their name, street address and telephone number, meaning that it is going to be observed by the recruiter before he/she reads the accomplishments detailed in the body of the resume. Likewise, many job application forms ask for an e-mail address in the top section of the form, usually right next to the box where your phone number is placed. Again, that information is going to be visually scanned by the person screening applications before he/she reviews the remainder of the form setting forth details about your educational background, work history, awards received and other accomplishments.

In other words, a professional and appropriate email address constitutes an opportunity to make a favorable first impression, the importance of which cannot be overstated.

As an online writer, you may not wish to reveal your real first and last name and, therefore, utilize a clever or witty email address as a point of contact. However, I urge you to also maintain a separate account for conducting personal business, especially when seeking employment or dealing with your present employer. Your real first and last name is the most easily remembered and professional choice. Moreover, I urge you to steer away from free domains such as Hotmail which are known for providing anonymity and being the source of spam. Rather, associate your business email address with your Internet provider, subtly demonstrating your stability, reliability and serious commitment to your professional pursuits.

Finally, make sure that if you associate an auto-responder message with that account, any message relayed back to senders is appropriate for the workplace. When I am on vacation, I set up my Outlook account to respond automatically to all e-mail, advising the sender that I will not be reading e-mail for a specific period of time and providing alternative contact information in the event that an emergency arises which must be dealt with before I return. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is forget that you submitted a resume and/or job application to a particular company using that email address and then utilize an automatic “away” message of questionable taste and appropriateness.

By the way, the same advice is applicable to your cellular telephone or Blackberry. Employers will use your cellular telephone number in order to contact you to set up an interview, for instance. Frequently, the cellular number is the preferred choice because recruiters realize that if you are presently employed, you are not going to be at home to receive their call and they prefer not to call you at your present place of employment. So it is advisable not to have an objectionable greeting.

Recently, my youngest son’s cell phone was either stolen or he lost it. Either way, he did not realize that it was missing until I was reviewing the monthly statement and noticed a lot of unusual activity on his phone line. Suspicious, I asked him, “Where’s your phone?” He replied, “In my room.” So I called his number, using the speaker phone on my desk. When, instead of a standard ring tone, a rap song containing highly offensive language, including racial and gender epithets, began playing, we knew that the phone was no longer in his possession or control. You do not want a prospective employer to react with horror, as we did, upon calling your number.

Do you have experience with these or related issues? Leave a comment!


Also published at Write Anything.

Comments

  1. says

    You provide many excellent points to consider here. Potential employers are also checking MySpace, Facebook and other social media networks to learn all they can about the REAL lives of applicants.

    Having offensive music playing on cell phones, or even home voice-mails, is a real turn off for many employers and can easily get your resume’ or application dumped into the trash bin without another glance.

    Regardless of what job market one is seeking employment, it’s vitally important to project a professional and modest image, as employers realize that you would be representing THEIR company, and have every right to critique whether applicants are a good fit or not.

    Lin Burress’s last blog post..Understanding Assertiveness: Getting The Respect You Deserve

  2. says

    I work hard with my daughter to make her realize that her future can be changed by what she places online now. Many kids are creating pages on MySpace that portrays them in a not so flattering light. Potential employers will not hire them when their page shows a lack of character.

  3. wii bundle says

    You can run but you can’t hide from what you do online. There is always a way to trace back. My kids are too small to be on the computer yet, but I plan on making sure they know to use an alias when ever online. Preferably one they change often.

  4. says

    As a teacher, I too see all kinds of email addresses. One of the worst was xxdumbblondexx. I even had a cutiepatootie in the mix once. It saddened me to think these girls didn’t think more of themselves, that they would market their bodies this way.

    I think the folks with the cryptic addresses–these alphanumeric jumbles (gs2jk9 types)–suggest they are hiding or just don’t want to be found and are also suspect.

    The reality is that the Internet is a very public forum. I know a woman in town who works for a social services agency but blogs about the agency’s clients on her personal blog, which she has linked one way to the agency blog. There’s a tremendous danger in exploiting others in this way, too.

    Of course, corporate blogging is the way to fame, as certain Microsoft gurus taught us all early on in the game!

  5. Niche Annihilation Method says

    You provide a lot of insights to think about.

    Sometimes it is not possible to have clean reputation or it takes a lot of effort to do so. For instance, if a spammer decides to use my email address to spam others.

    It takes a lot of effort to prove that I’m not involved in that act.

  6. says

    I have a blog pseudonym and associated e-mail which I use for blog business and use my real name for official stuff.

    However, I use Gmail for both. I could use Comcast, but I don’t like the impression it gives. Somehow, it seems to me like people who use Comcast or some of the other ISPs and such are generally the least internet savvy. Plus, gmail.com is a lot easier for people to remember than zoominternet.net, for instance. Hotmail’s definitely got a bad reputation, but I think Gmail and Yahoo are pretty respectable.

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