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Will Your Online Presence Cost You a Job?

It's fun to be online! You have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and many other sites. It's a great way to keep in touch with friends and know what's going on in the world. But what side effects do having an online identity cause? Could it possibly lose you job opportunities and more?

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By Laura Allan

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Projecting the Image

At work, you probably project a very calculated image of yourself. You want to be liked and respected by coworkers, admired by those who work under you and viewed as a professional by your bosses. You work hard to maintain that persona, but did you know that your image goes deeper than what you show at work? With the joys of the Internet comes a window into our private lives that just about anyone can peek through. You probably have a Facebook, a Twitter or even an account with deviantART. There, you probably project a much different image than you do when at work. Still, people from work can see that version of you with just the click of a mouse.

Don't believe it? Take a moment to Google yourself. Try your full name, then your e-mail and then your phone number. How much information about you comes up? How does what you see portray you as a person? Keep in mind that if you can find all that out so easily, then so can your employer. But can it really lose you a job? More easily than you could ever imagine.

Woah, TMI!

Sometimes a friend might say something to you like 'Woah dude, TMI!', meaning that you've given out too much information. For some reason, it seems people like to do this online as well. Some of it's just information no one needs to know, like the happenings in your last bathroom trip. Sometimes it's things people really shouldn't know, like when you last did drugs in high school or did something else illegal. If you put that information up on Facebook or Twitter you might think that it's funny, but your future and current employers might not. This information can change how they view you as a person or even give them grounds to fire you.

There was a girl who worked with me in a nursing home, and she tweeted about how she had been pulled over the night before and been given a DUI. Our employer found out and she was immediately fired. It was just one little tweet and it cost her a job. Keep in mind that big brother might be watching before you tweet.

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Tag, You're It

Even if you're not posting about it, being a part of a group might still reflect poorly on you. If you carry on an Internet life outside of the normal social media groups, in a forum for example, you probably use another name. These are commonly called handles, screen names, logins or tags. Generally, these can be anything you want and do not have to be associated with your real name or identity. Still, if you use the same tag on multiple forums and sites, they can be linked together. All it takes is one profile associated with that tag that contains your e-mail or Facebook name, and suddenly people can easily trace it back to every forum you've ever been a part of and see every post you've ever made. That post you made about how much you hate your boss doesn't seem so private now, does it?

There is an easy way to fight off this problem, though. Use different e-mails and different tags for every forum or site you sign up for, especially if you tend to post angry rants or inappropriately humored pictures. This is also a good idea if you're a part of any underground culture. You may love to be a part of that goth forum, but your employer might not be so hot on the idea.

Going Off the Grid

With this lack of privacy online, you might be tempted to cut it all out. Turn off the computer, walk away and never return. While that certainly would get rid of your online presence, it's just not necessary. Generally, employers are not going to be checking your every Facebook post or tweet. Why would they have the time to backtrace your forum names and read over all your posts? At the most, they'll probably check your LinkedIn profile and Google you. If nothing major pops out, you're probably ok.

Still, it pays to be careful. All you have to do is remember not to post content you wouldn't want the world to see. Keep your forum and group identities separated with different e-mails and tags, and never post enough personal information to be easily found. Google yourself sometimes to see how your online image is doing. Operate under the assumption that everything you put up online will be permanent, and you should be fine. And do not become Facebook friends with your boss - it's just not smart.

Worried about how your college life and party life might clash? Read up on college and drinking.

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