When I started college, social media was in its infancy. Facebook was still just for students, there was no Twitter or Instagram, and people didn’t share every second of their day with everyone they’ve ever known. Still there existed a concept described to me by one of my favorite teachers as the “invisible resume.” Basically it’s the reputation that follows you personally and professionally; an unofficial “permanent record.” She cautioned us to be mindful of not only our actions, but also our publicly shared thoughts and opinions. These impressions, she warned, could come back to haunt us as we entered our professions. I will always be grateful for her wisdom in those early days of what would become a revolution in human interaction.
We’ve all seen examples of public figures who find themselves in a pickle when past words and actions resurface. You’ve likely seen it with people you know, too. Your perception of someone you’ve known for years can be drastically changed with one distasteful post. Publicly repeated negative statements, complaints, or pleas for sympathy can begin to re-shape others’ opinions of that person.
Employers routinely reference online profiles during the screening process. Even if you’re well-qualified and an otherwise great candidate for a job, those pictures you took at last week’s house party could put you out of consideration. Hateful comments or toxic behavior speak louder than the GPA on your resume. Even heavily biased political views can be a turn-off depending on who’s reading it.
I’m all for free speech and standing behind your opinions. Part of the reason I have this website is so that I can share my thoughts without asking permission or getting clearance from anyone. I have a low bullshit tolerance and prefer straight talk. But that does not mean that they are unfiltered. I have to be careful about what I put out into the world, not only because of anyone who might take my advice, but also because what I say here becomes part of my invisible resume. The onus is on me to curate and edit my words so that I don’t come across the wrong way.
The same goes for my personal social media. Ninety percent of what I type into Twitter or Facebook never gets sent, because I have a policy of stepping back and assessing the effect that it might have. Is this something that I want people to know about me? Is this benefitting anyone else who reads it, or is it just for me? If there’s no reason for it to be shared, then I let it live in my own head. Everybody saves time.
I know that it feels good to vent, and there’s a basic human desire to have your voice be heard. I get it, and I feel it too. But as future and current professionals, we can’t give in to baser instincts at the expense of our reputations. The goal here is to make you more aware of what you’re putting online. There will be one less obstacle in the way of your dream job, and you’ll learn a little self-restraint in the process. If mistakes have been made, you might want to get online and do a little damage control…