Independent Thinking Blog

(This Will Go On) Your Permanent Record

Remember that old saying about doing the right thing because otherwise it would “go on your permanent record”? I don’t know whether anyone other than TV dads gave that talk, or whether the threat of demerits kept someone from misbehaving. But it seems a good conversation to have today–with adults.

So here’s my lecture:

1. Don’t put anything in writing you wouldn’t want everyone to see. Companies make this mistake all the time, or lawyers wouldn’t go through thousands of boxes looking for, and often finding, the smoking gun. So be aware of what you’re saying, and make sure it’s something that fits both your personal and professional image.

2. The Internet is not a private space, so don’t post something on a Web site one day and hope it disappears tomorrow. If you’re not convinced of this, think about the Obama aide whose encounter with a Hillary Clinton cutout was reportedly on Facebook for only about 2 hours. I didn’t see it there, and probably neither did anyone but the lone reporter who stumbled on the photo and copied it. The point is, the aide let someone take a picture of him in a compromising position and it came back to bite him.

3. The distinction between our personal and business profiles is rapidly vanishing, if it ever really existed. When was the last time you went to lunch with a client or a prospect and only talked about business? It just doesn’t happen. Our personal lives give our business lives context, and we sprinkle our conversations with nuggets of ourselves all the time.

4. Social media is accelerating this trend. Most of us have staked out space on multiple sites and post pictures, video, links, and/or text on a regular basis. I know some people who say they use LinkedIn for business and Facebook as their personal social network, but potential clients, employers, and curiosity seekers aren’t making the same distinction when they look for data about you.

That’s my Permanent Record 101 talk. What would you add?

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