Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Are You Being Naive -- and Just Plain Stupid -- About Your Online Reputation?

If you do nothing else today, Google yourself.

I do not say this so that you can stroke your own ego by seeing how many "hits" you get. I say this to save your ass.

There's enough instability right now in the economy that everyone -- and I mean everyone -- needs to be in active job-hunting mode. That means in addition to ramping up your networking efforts, you need to immediately take steps to clean up your online footprint.

Last week I sent out a HARO request for my Gannett News Service/ column asking for input on how to manage your online reputation. I received so much good stuff that I couldn't use it all. I also learned some disturbing information during my research: Most people only check out what's online about them several times a year.


That means anyone could be writing snarky comments about you, posting photos of you in a Borak-inspired swimsuit from your last drunken vacation or even making erroneous statements linking you to unethical or illegal activities and -- if you're rarely checking online -- it might be months before you discovered it. By that time, a lot of damage could be done to you professionally.

And that, my friends, could be disastrous at a time like this when we should all be actively promoting ourselves in the marketplace.

So, I'm going to share some really good advice and comments from online reputation management folks that I couldn't fit in my column:

* "Search for your name in Google, Yahoo! and MSN right away. (Google covers most of the Web, but MSN and Yahoo! may pick up web pages that Google missed or ignored.) Learn how to manage your privacy settings within each social network you use. (This is usually hidden away under "profile" or "preferences" tabs.)
-- Nestor G. Trillo, SEO expert, Avaniu Communications

* "Google offers a great service. You can subscribe to alerts, which will provide you with daily notices if your name is used on the Internet. The service is free and worth doing if you have a reputation to protect." --Chris Reich, business advisor,

* "Be transparent - this doesn't mean allow yourself to be trashed. It means fight back with facts. It also means telling the whole story; of using social media as a 'bright light' when dealing with false statements. Have lots of friends - they will come to your rescue and defend you. Don't be something online that you aren't offline. In short, your brand is your brand regardless of the medium." -- Justin Foster, founder/partner, Tricycle

* "We recently interviewed an individual for a C-level position with our company. He interviewed extremely well and the final check we did was his reputation in Google. What we found was alarming, not the least of which was a class action lawsuit against his old company." --Fionn Downhill,CEO,

* "I had a client, Josh Deming (not his real name) who had a reputation as a hard- nosed manager. After losing his position after an acquisition, he found himself in a job search for the first time in a number of years. Because he was highly respected, he thought the search would go quickly. On several occasions, he would get to the final stages prior to hiring with a company showing great enthusiasm, only to suddenly be dropped from consideration.
At this point Josh came to see me. We did a Google search and found that when we searched "Josh Deming", No. 5 in the Google search results was a link to an industry forum page where Josh was being trashed anonymously by some people that had worked for him calling him an unfit manager.
Here's what we did.
1) We changed everything (resume, cover letters, online profiles, etc.) to "Joshua P. Deming", his full name. People will typically Google what is on the resume. When "Joshua P. Deming" was Googled, nothing negative showed up.
2) We took advantage of a few key online profiles. Everyone should take advantage of LinkedIn. Google loves it and for most people, if they have a LinkedIn profile, it will show up first if you Google them. Professionals, executives and managers should also take advantage of and ZoomInfo. All of these are relatively simple, don't require a lot of maintenance, and will boost online visibility.
3) We had Joshua write a book review on his favorite management book and post it on Amazon. This gave the opportunity to show a little thought leadership and demonstrate his management knowledge to help counter the negatives should a potential employer stumble upon the comments in the industry forum.
The result was that within weeks Joshua was hired." -- Don Huse, president/CEO, Venturion

* "...People have to realize that anything you put online stays there and can be used against you. It's all well and fine believing that your Facebook profile can only be viewed by your friends, but what's to stop one of those friends from copying what you write and posting it elsewhere? This recently happened on Twitter. A friend of mine had comments that were made privately, to a closed group of friends, posted on a blog, as part of an post attacking someone else in the marketing field." -- Simon Heseltine, director of search, Serengeti Communications Inc.

What else should someone do to manage their online reputation?


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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to Know When It's Time to Take Your Job Off Life Support

You can't exactly put your finger on it, but somehow your job has started sucking the life force out of you.

Every day you feel a little more depressed, a little more like maybe you should just call in sick and sit home and watch "Cash Cab."

Still, the thought of looking for another job is even more depressing. There's the business of writing the resume. You know you'll face rejections. You'll have to go on interviews, and that ranks right up there with with having someone wax your entire body.

OK, maybe things aren't that bad at work, you think. Maybe you will somehow pull yourself out of this rut. After all, it's better to keep bringing home a paycheck than try to get another job when millions of others are trying to do the same thing, right? Who knows...the next job might be even worse.

Not so fast. It may be it's time to consider what your gut is trying to tell you, and it's this: Your job is headed down the toilet.

How to recognize that it's time to get the resume together? Consider these signs:
* The paper trail. I'm always amazed when people don't understand that a case is being built against them whenever they start getting those snarky memos from managers, using words and phrases like "failed" and "falls short" and "not up to standards" and "missed deadlines."
* The "whammo" performance evaluation. Sort of a Whack-a-Mole game for managers, where everything positive you bring up is slapped down. Another sign a case is being built against you.
* You have tread marks on your back. Those are signs that others have been running you over on their way to promotions that should have been yours. Missing a couple of opportunities may not be a big deal, but more than that means you're on the fast track to Doomed.
* You repel money. Pay raises? Forget it. Your budget is reduced or put under the jurisdiction of someone else. You're not part of a project that is expected to bring in big money or spend big money. The office manager always seems to lose your request for new equipment.
* Everyone is too busy for you. Your calls are not being returned, and your e-mails seem to suffer the same fate. You're not included in key meetings, and no one stops to shoot the breeze with you anymore. While you may think this is OK, it's really a sign that others perceive you as someone on the outs.

Finally, keep in mind that even though the job market is tough right now, it's much better to be looking for work on your terms. It's always easier to look for a job when you have a job. Don't wait until it's too late and you're forced to join the unemployed masses.

What are some other signs a job may be in trouble? Is there a way to recover?


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Monday, April 7, 2008

What Dogs Can Teach Us About Work

It was a glorious weekend -- warm air and sunshine -- and no man or beast enjoyed it more than my Golden Retriever, Annie.

In fact, I spent a lot of time observing Annie this weekend, and I think I came away with some life lessons that would benefit anyone in the workplace today.

1. Take a nap. After chasing a couple of rabbits in the yard, barking at the neighbor's cat and thoroughly sniffing all open spaces, Annie looked a little pooped and headed for some shut eye on the sun-warmed deck. After about 30 minutes, she roused and and resumed chasing birds and barking at the neighbor's cat. The lack of sleep in this country is terrible, and it shows up in the workplace in terms of lost productivity and more accidents, both on the job and while commuting. Nearly 70 million of us are sleep deprived, and that's bad for our mental and physical health. When you're tired, don't check that last e-mail or put in that last load of laundry -- go to bed. Take a nap every day if you can. Annie sleeps when she's tired, and doesn't worry about whether the neighbor's cat will be there when she awakes.

2. Multitasking doesn't make sense. When Annie greets a member of the family, she always brings something to share like a tennis ball or a rawhide bone. Sometimes she'll try and bring a couple of tennis balls and the bone, which slows her down. In the time she spends searching and then trying to organize the items in her mouth, the person she was hoping to share her slobbery treasure with has moved on. She's learned that by grabbing only one thing, she does it quickly, efficiently and reaches her goal in time to enjoy the moment. Multitasking often backfires at work, so take a tip from Annie and do one thing well and enjoy the success of the moment before moving on to....well, barking at the neighbor's cat.

3. Appreciate the hand that feeds you. Every member of our family is greeted with love and lots of tail wagging by Annie, but I have to admit that Annie shows the love a bit more to me every morning because I'm the one who fills her food bowl. I get yips of joy when I pick up the bowl, and the tail wagging that accompanies her meal could generate enough energy to power a small city. Afterward, she always excitedly tracks me down, happily dancing in place as she conveys her gratitude for filling her belly. I think too often we forget that it's our jobs that allow us to feed ourselves and our loved ones, it's our jobs that allow us to pay bills and perhaps travel or buy that new iPhone. So, with job losses on the rise,remember to do an internal happy dance of your own and say "thanks" to those who give you a paycheck.


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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Feeling Angry and Frustrated When Change Happens is Natural

By our very nature, we human beings don’t like change. Children as young as 2-years-old will pitch a screaming hissy fit when the furniture at home is moved. Teens struggle to cope with the new world of high school or college. Even adults have a hard time saying goodbye to the familiar – especially when it has to do with work.

Work for adults consumes a lot of time. Many of us spend 12 to14 hours a day at work, so when things get turned topsy-turvey, we’re not always pleased with the results. In fact, our behavior may closely resemble a toddler’s hissy fit.

Except quieter.

We sit at work, fuming that our company is being downsized and peers are losing their jobs. We’re angry that we will have to move to another facility in another state in order to keep a job. We’re totally ticked that we will have to learn a new system.

But that’s change.

At first you may deny what is happening, and you put up some resistance, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because it shows that you're ready to do something, instead of just sitting around in a numb complacency.

Now begins the grieving process. But for many companies, acknowledging that employees are unhappy with change is the last thing desired. And that is why many workers have trouble moving on. Because if companies don’t recognize it -- the need for employees to talk about how much they hate what is happening -- then they cannot learn to deal with it. It is often the emotional piece that everyone misses.

Bosses need to understand that it is a natural reaction for people to be furious and frustrated when work patterns change. Humans are creatures of habit, and a lot of people have not yet learned how to become more flexible. People can learn to be very resilient, but they also need a chance to grieve.

If you are facing change on the job, here are some things to consider:
· The loss. If you feel that you are fighting the change, take a step back and consider what it is that you believe you are losing. Remember: If you cannot handle loss in your life, you cannot have growth in your life.

Perhaps it is the fact that you are afraid you will lose your visibility on the job because technology is taking over, or that you will lose yourself somehow when a job is lost.
Human ingenuity on the job is still critical, no matter how much technology is put into place. For those who suffer when they are laid off, remember: Your job is not your identity.

· The signs. Angry? Crabby? Blowing up at stuff that doesn’t matter? These are all indications, along with feeling blue, that change is causing problems in your life. Find a way to acknowlege these feelings and perhaps talk to a family member or friend about how you feel. If you have a case of the blues that simply won’t get better or go away, seek professional help.

· Saying goodbye. Many companies do not realize that desks can be moved, but not hearts. That means that even if an office is just moving across town, then employees need a chance to confront their feelings – maybe they will have a longer commute, they will miss their favorite coffee shop or their desk by the window that had a view of the park. At the same time, employees should be allowed to say what they may miss about the old way of doing things, then talk about their concerns for the future. Once that's out in the open, managers can help workers accept the changes to come.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

My List of Heroes

Off the top of my head I can name 10 people who have either lost their jobs recently, have been forced to take early buyouts, or work for companies so under threat that they will probably begin layoffs as soon as the holidays are over.

But what amazes me about these people is that even though they are the breadwinners of their families, even though they are well established in their careers, not one of them feels sorry for themselves. When recounting the tough times they're now experiencing, in the next breath they always mention how much love and support they receive from their families and friends, how blessed they are to have their health, and how much they're looking forward to seeing what else life has in store for them.

Often we talk about how the heroes in our world are soldiers fighting thousands of miles from home, or firefighters or police officers who defend us every day. I certainly agree with those sentiments.

But when I think of people who have had their jobs yanked out from under them -- and they keep putting one foot in front of the other every day -- then I have to add them to my list of heroes. They're not doing anything other than trying to get a job so that they can put food on the table, send a kid to college and save something for retirement. They're not trying to be the biggest blogger on the Internet, have a business book bestseller or nab the spotlight every time they have an idea or come up with the next big "thing."

Nope -- they just want a job so that they take care of the people that matter to them. Sometimes they get jobs they hate, with horrible bosses and companies that don't care two cents about them. But they keep on going, always keeping in mind the things that are truly important in their lives. That's something I don't think we admire enough.

So, on this day, I want to say thank you to everyone who keeps trying every day, no matter what. You're my heroes.



Monday, September 10, 2007

Job Loss: You Could Be Next

If you’re feeling a little uptight about your job these days, you’re not alone. And if you’re not feeling a little uptight, you should be.

That’s because the employment figures released last week weren’t so hot. Those lost jobs – the first time that’s happened in four years – comes on the heels of a lousy housing market and continuing costly overseas military actions.

Of course, the more optimistic among you will cite the good retail sales figures and the strong corporate profits as signs that things will again be good, and that you’ve got no reason to be worried.

Are you absolutely sure about that? Well, if so, then continue on your merry way and don’t worry about tomorrow. But for those of you who are concerned that your job may be threatened (remember, companies keep those profits high by using employees as commodities), then it’s time to take stock and prepare.

While I’ve covered some of these in my “What To Do When You Lose a Job” posting, I’d like to beef it up a bit. Even if you feel like your job is safe, you’d be foolish to turn your nose up at these opportunities that will not only benefit your job now, but help you should the pink slip be in the next paycheck:

1. Attend the next professional event. You’ve been putting this off because, frankly, you’re so exhausted after work the last thing you want to do is talk business and eat stale pretzels while trying to remember some guy’s name you met a year ago. Go to the next event and not only should you learn everyone’s name, but come away with at least three new contacts. Is your industry vulnerable to the ripples going on now in the economy? Are other companies already making noises about layoffs? What are other professionals in your industry seeing at their companies?
2. Do some snooping. Get to know the boss’s executive assistant if you don’t already. Get friendly enough to take him or her to lunch or meet for a drink after work. Is this assistant hearing anything about the boss being told to tighten the budget? Is the boss – or the boss’s boss – thinking of jumping ship? What departments are scheduled for new training, and who is being cut off from decision-making?
3. Start blogging. Make sure it’s OK with your company policy first, but this is a good chance to set yourself up as an expert in your area. Post important information from other sites, and refer readers to other places for information. Even if you aren’t allowed to blog about your job, find other bloggers in your industry and post comments. This is a good way to become known for your knowledge and expertise.
4. Know what’s being said about you online. You want to make sure that what is being presented about you online does not give a company the excuse it’s looking for to get rid of you. Remove anything questionable, and ask friends to remove photos or descriptions that make you look or sound like a total moron or dangerous human being.
5. Know where the jobs are. Make sure you understand not only what you’re worth, but what areas of the country (or world) are hiring people with your skills and abilities. Constantly assess your network and how up-to-date you are on current trends, how fast you could hit the ground running for a new employer. If you’re lacking in an area, don’t wait – get the training either through your company or on your own.

Remember, you want to make sure you’ve got a game plan in place before you see someone from security standing by your desk with a cardboard box. Waiting until you and everyone else from your company is filing out the door with those boxes could mean that you should have heeded this warning in the first place.

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