Companies regularly Google would-be employees. So do potential mates and even casual acquaintances.

Let us pause and count the reasons why you should think twice before detailing your New Year’s Eve escapades on a Weblog or posting video clips of your wild trip to Cancun.

One, your boss may read and see things you would never want her to know.

Two, five or 10 years from now – when you have matured and advanced in your career – your underlings may do the same. Your kids might, too.

Three, depending on what you include, your chances of employment may be jeopardized. After all, companies regularly Google would-be employees. So do potential mates and even casual acquaintances.

I’m not trying to make you feel paranoid. But with more and more people sharing personal information online, often without thinking about the consequences, caution is warranted.

Sharing too much

By posting messages at Web forums, storing your bookmarks online or sharing photos on the Web, you may already be revealing more about yourself than you intended. Just tap into LiveJournal.com (for blogs), YouTube.com (for video), or Flickr.com (for photos), and you will likely stumble upon material that is a tad too revealing. You may wonder: Were they crazy to put that online? Did they realize what they were doing?

David Teten and Scott Allen’s book “The Virtual Handshake” (Amacom, $19.95) emphasizes the importance of crafting a sensible online presence through blogs, message boards, home pages and other tools.

Asset or detriment?

An online presence can be a tremendous asset for business, Teten says, but it can also cause problems.

“I find this is a particular issue with young people – college students and recent college students – because their online presence is geared for a much more informal atmosphere,” says Teten, who is the chief executive of Nitron Advisors, an investment research firm. “We had a 21-year-old recent graduate from an Ivy League school who interviewed with us, and we found his blog. In his blog, he talked in very unflattering terms about his prior employer, from who he’d been fired.”

Needless to say, he wasn’t hired for the position.

Use common sense

And if you think that is something you would never do, don’t underestimate the confessional impulse.

Because search services, Internet archives and information databases troll the online world for personal data, your information may be stored for posterity. You can easily lose control of what someone learns about you when typing your name into Google or other databases.

All of this argues for some common-sense tactics – namely, thinking twice about what you post, editing yourself and considering future consequences.


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