The Glass Hammer: Don’t Get Dooced! Staying Employable Online

hands computerBy Elizabeth Harrin (London)

Heard the one about the girl sacked via Facebook? Or the woman fired for blogging about her sex life? The internet is a dangerous place. “While fewer than 2% of employers have terminated employees for violations committed on business or personal blogs, that number is certain to grow as workplace blogging becomes more prevalent,” says Nancy Flynn, in her book The e-Policy Handbook. There are millions of blogs online, and if you write one you could be at risk of being marched out of your office with your stuff in a cardboard box. There’s even a word for it: dooced.

In 2002, Heather Armstrong, a web designer from Los Angeles, lost her job after her employers decided they didn’t appreciate what she had written on her website, Dooce. And a new word passed into the lexicon. Armstrong now makes a living from blogging and her website supports her family. However, she’s pragmatic about how she ended up writing as a career. “In February 2001, I launched as a place to write about pop culture, music, and my life as a single woman,” she writes on her blog. “I never expected more than a couple of dozen people to read it. A year later I was fired from my job for this website because I had written stories that included people in my workplace. My advice to you is BE YE NOT SO STUPID.”

Here are our six tips to keep yourself employable online, and avoid the stupid stuff.

  1. Read your company’s social media policy

    Trawl through the intranet and find that social media policy. If it says you must tell your manager that you blog, tell her. In fact, do whatever it says. Breaching the policy will certainly be a contributing factor if your blogging antics ever become public knowledge, and ignorance of the policy is not likely to be a good enough excuse. No policy? Talk to your manager about what you are doing online, the topics you blog about and so on, and agree some ground rules – see below. And get your internal communications team to write a policy for everyone’s benefit.

  2. Follow the code of ethics

    Forrester analyst Charlene Li has come up with a blogger code of ethics, which is worth a look at if you need some guidance on what is suitable for the public domain and what should be kept offline.

    As a rule of thumb, think before you post! What are the risks – to you and the company – of you saying what you’re about to say? Don’t blog about share prices, sensitive information, security processes and so on. And it should go without saying that you should never comment on your colleagues. If in doubt, don’t. Even if your current employer doesn’t mind (or doesn’t notice) you don’t want to be labeled the employee who gave away company secrets when you’re looking for your next job.

  3. Use photos with care

    No one can see your Facebook profile, what with all the security settings you’ve set, right? Unfortunately, nothing on the internet is truly private, so be careful about what information you post, even if you think only your friends can see it. That means no suspect photos: being seen in a wet T-shirt contest or partaking in dubious substances is only going to harm your credibility in the workplace, and is the sort of information potential employers might stumble upon when they are filtering information on job candidates.

  4. Keep work separate

    Social media tools give us the ability to friend, follow and link all our colleagues on multiple sites. You might have your friends and family connected through the same network as the people in your office. However good you are at keeping your work and personal lives separate online, the easiest and safest way is to use separate networks for different groups. LinkedIn is a popular tool for business people – choose that or something similar for work. Use Facebook for friends and family. Don’t let anyone slip past this net.

  5. Understand that it’s more than a water cooler conversation

    You’re not saying anything online that you wouldn’t say down the pub, or at the water cooler, so what’s the difference? There’s a huge difference. The audience is much larger, and things can and do get picked up and spread around by other people. Many corporations, including Wal-Mart, have been caught out by what’s been written about them online, and you really don’t want to be the centre of a big PR scandal.

  6. Google yourself

    You need to write online with tact to keep yourself in your employer’s good books, but that will only help you stay on top of what you are saying. To find out what other people are saying about you (or your company), set up a Google Alert to inform you when something about you turns up online. It’s not vanity, it’s a useful way of monitoring the online space and following what other bloggers are saying about you and the topics you discuss. This way you can head off anything that could be potentially career damaging, or at least warn your employer that something’s coming.

It should be easy to stay employable online. The mantra ‘don’t be stupid’ is a good one to follow. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to type and click ‘Submit’ when you’re tired, or not thinking straight, or furious with someone at work. The internet has a very long memory – it’s not like sending an email to just one person and then having to grovel an apology in the morning. However, follow a few sensible ground rules and you’ll avoid many of the pitfalls of having a presence online, and maintain your credibility and employability.

Posted via web from AndyWergedal