As I was watching the local news yesterday, I was particularly interested in a story about a class at Edinboro University teaching the importance of online reputations, especially for college students who are about to embark into their professional careers. I am extremely pleased that local colleges are beginning to teach students that whatever they put out there in cyberspace is there for anybody to find, including future employers. All it takes is a simple Google search. This is why this particular class is encouraging students to “Google yourself!” to understand what potential employers will find. However, I wonder if the current concern about the content listed on social networking sites is worth worrying about, as most of this information is password protected, and privacy settings are advanced on most sites.
As the popularity of social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube have increased, so have the amount of photos and information being posted by college and high school students. Usually, these unprofessional and sometimes incriminating photos and comments are freely posted by the individuals and their friends or contacts, not thinking about potential employers who may search for this type of online information in order to conduct a secret interview of the prospect.
My question is, if an individual adjusts the privacy settings just right, allowing only befriended individuals access to the profile information, photos, videos, and information in applied applications, is that profile data safe from those who may interview you in the future? In my opinion, they are, even if a random individual has NO way to access your profile from their personal computer. However, considering that you NEVER know who may be interviewing you or the possibility of jealous individuals you may have on your friends list, information that you post for others to see on the web, even if there are privacy settings on it, is never safe from potential interviewers. So, beware.
The lesson? Be careful what type of photos, comments, or information you list about yourself. Even though it may be all in good fun and “boys being boys,” it may reflect on your perceived judge of character. The advice given by the Edinboro professors is a good one: Google Yourself, check your online reputation, and clean it up if necessary.