Are you telling your own online story?

by Salpeter, Miriam Wednesday, May 23, 2012
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I was watching one of the Sunday morning political shows this week, and I couldn’t help but be inspired to write about some of the topics they discussed that mirror personal and professional issues we all face.

Maybe you’ve heard the news that, as a teenager, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was involved in some activities we would identify as bullying. Whether or not you believe how someone behaved as a 17-year old should affect what we think of them almost 50 years later, the discussion is yet another reminder of how bad behavior can easily come back to haunt you.

In this case, traditional news media have reported on this story by speaking to people who are willing to say they were involved with the Romney incident, or who witnessed it. Fifty years from now, we are likely to be reviewing Facebook posts and online blogs outlining how presidential candidates thought and behaved in their younger days. While a presidential election involves an extreme “background check,” it is a good reminder for all of us about how our behavior may come to light in the future.

Laurie Ruettimann wrote an insightful post about accountability and asked the question: “What’s our hiring criteria for the President?” (Or for other jobs?) These are important questions for every professional to consider. Criteria will continue to be competitive. It’s not going to get any easier to get a job.

Another notable topic that came up during the Sunday morning program was the issue of telling your own story. Clearly, this is important for politicians. If they don’t tell their own story, one of the commentators noted, they risk someone else filling in the details. This is an important mantra I tell all of my clients; I may explain this 10 times a day!

If you are a politician, and no one knows what you think about a particular topic, it shouldn’t be surprising when someone else steps up to offer an opinion about what you probably think. However, have you thought about how this also happens to anyone who does not tell his or her own professional story?

If you allow someone else to shape your digital footprint by failing to create your own online profile, be aware that someone else, intentionally or unintentionally, is filling that digital void by mentioning your name online or by writing something about you.