Is Your Internet Activity Hurting Your DBA Career?

I have been active on the Internet for 15 years, and during that time I have left a long trail behind me. If you Google my name, there are over 5,000 hits. If you check my name in Live Search, there are over 8,000 hits. If you wanted to, you could trace much of my online activity over the years with simple searches. And if you were really clever, you could visit the Wayback Machine and find all about me on archived web pages that don’t currently exist on the Internet. My life is an open book.

Do you know what? More and more employers are using Internet search to find out all about you before they hire you. So if a prospective employer enters your name into a search engine, what will they find?

Will they find information that strongly points to your professionalism, providing a strong indication that you are they type of person they can trust once they hire you? Or will they find information that will strongly discourage them from hiring you?

According to a recent Careerbuilder.Com survey, 22% of hiring managers say that they actively use the Internet to research prospective job candidates. Based on my experience, I think that number is low. I think it is closer to 40-50%. In fact, I talked to a hiring manager just this past week, and he does regular searches on job applicants. And what was even more interesting was just that same day he had decided not to hire someone because of posts he read on an applicant’s Facebook page.

So what does this mean to your career? It means that if you aren’t careful how you portray yourself on the Internet, your career could be negatively impacted.

If you are serious about being a professional DBA, and want to continue to pursue this profession as a career, I suggest the following:

–Conduct your own Internet searches (using several search engines) on your name to see what pops up. If you have a common name, then you may have to add additional search criteria to ensure that the search hits you get back are directly related to you. Another way to help restrict your searches is to use quote marks around your full name. For example, in my case, I would search on “Brad McGehee” (including the quote marks as you see here).

–Check out all of the web pages where you are mentioned and evaluate the content. Does it reflect you in a positive light, or negatively? In other words, if a hiring manager saw these same web pages, is there any content that could portray you in anything less than a positive way? While those photos of you partying with your buddies on Flickr might seem funny to you, they won’t impress most hiring managers. Or if you participate in unfriendly flame wars in forums or newsgroups, the same applies.

–If you find content that is negative, you have three major options:

  1. In many cases, you are probably the source of the negative content (such as Facebook, MySpace, or Flickr pages), and because of this, you have control over the content and can clean it up.
  2. Second, if you don’t have control over the content (for example, a friend has posted a photo of you drinking at a party), and you know the person who controls the content, ask them to remove it.
  3. Third, if you can’t get the negative content removed, one option is to “remake” yourself on the Internet and hope that the negative content goes away. By this, I mean you want the negative content to sink so low in Internet search results that nobody will ever be able to find it. How do you do this? Start by creating new content, such as joining a professional social networking group, such as Plaxo or LinkedIn (assuming you haven’t done so already), contributing to professional forums (and using a signature tag so people can find the posts), writing a professional blog, writing articles for professional websites, and so on. In other words, add so much positive content to the Internet that it overwhelms any negative content that you don’t control.

In my next blog posting, I will offer some specific dos and don’ts when it comes to “acting professional” on the Internet.

PS: Ah, you maybe thinking, nobody can find out about my Internet antics because I use an “alias,” so nobody can find out who I really am. Forget that. Unless you are an expert at hiding your identify, using an “alias” doesn’t offer much protection. In fact, for the fun of it, I checked out the “aliases” of some of my acquaintances, and it wasn’t very difficult for me to find out who they really were. Or, you may tell me, “only my friends have access to my personal content, because I don’t make my profile on social networking sites public.” While this may help, remember that anything you put on the Internet is not protected. It is very easy for one of your friends to copy your “amusing” photo and publish on a non-protected web page. So don’t assume that the “superficial privacy” offered by most social network sites will be as effective as you might think. Once something is published on the Internet, privacy goes out the door.