Thank God you’re not this guy.
Meet Marshall Ericksen. Yes, he’s the lawyer of the gang of #HowIMetYourMother. Yes, this is his video from the second episode of the show’s 7th season. Yes, he’s naked and yes, it’s posted on the internet.
Did I mention he’s applying for his dream job and the company wants to have a background check on him?
Poor Marshall is experiencing the effect of a common dilemma for job–seekers today: mismanagement of online reputation. To analyze the circumstance, we must put ourselves in his shoes (or feet #getitcozhesnaked) and formulate basic premises that he might have had:
1. “All’s forgotten because it was a long time ago.”
WHAT HAPPENED: The episode narrated that the video was taken when he was in college. Now a lawyer, Marshall did not make an effort to remove the video online. Not being threatened by the dangers of that naked memory, he might have thought that it is actually funny and his college friends and he should actually just laugh for the memory that comes with the video.
WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED: Aside from evading all forms of video recording technologies when you’re naked, Marshall should have understood that everyone can see his naked video online. It is not wise to assume that the video will circulate only to his friends.
2. “Now I want to take it down. Online information do not have lingering effects, anyway.”
WHAT HAPPENED: Understanding the potential danger of the video, Marshall then went to his college friend and asked him to take it down. Marshall probably thought that this is the best way to solve his problem, even if there are 31, 546 people who already saw it. Now that he knows that there are thousands of people who laughed at him, what matters most is that he doesn’t know most of those people. More especially, employees from his dream job are not part of that number.
WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED: He already knew that there exist a naked video of him on the internet. What’s worse is that he knew who the uploader is. He should have confronted the person to put the video down right away. Aside from that, he must know that people talk online. They share even the most mundane of things. If he really is serious about combating the negative effects of the video, he could have reacted on it by posting a serious blog about it—how that happened a long time ago, as example. There are many ways to do it but the bottom line is to address it.
3. “The company would not see it because there’s little chance to see it.”
WHAT HAPPENED: For every minute, there are thousands of videos uploaded on the internet. It would then be a far shot for the company to see that one video. Statistics backs him up on this. Therefore, it is really impossible for that video to have that effect on him.
WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED: He should not have underestimated internet as a social tool. The proper use of tagging and strategic video placement can let a video be viewed by thousands in one day. He should have understood the potential dangers of what things the internet relates his name to.
4. “Even if the company sees it, my personal online reputation is irrelevant to my professional reputation.”
WHAT HAPPENED: The employees of his dream company are professionals. They therefore must have the understanding to segment his past college life from his present lawyer life.
WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED: Although this is a valid assumption, it is still an ideal assumption. In situations like this, one must prepare for the worst scenario. It is always better to be careful, especially when employment is what’s being talked about.
One could really not tell the fruits or the dangers of online reputation unless it is challenged. But for all things, it is better to maintain a good online reputation than to make a good statement to protect yourself afterwards. Maintaining a good online reputation builds rapport; maintaining a bad one may have consequences. Lucky for Marshall Ericksen, his boss hired him still even when his boss saw the video. But surely, not all will be as lucky as him.