Networking Web sites: a two-edge sword

Oct. 1, 2009
Project management authority H. Kent Craig on networking websites

Years ago, in 1998, before the Internet became what it is today, I made the decision to learn HTML and take some previously existing published works, write some new ones, and put them on a personal Web site — a novelty back in 1998 — all in an effort to market myself and make myself more desirable to prospective employers.

I figured that my personal Web site would eventually allow me to reach that one executive, at that one company, who would offer me the absolute perfect career position that I'd be happy in until I retired.

Once my Web site was up and my articles were posted, I invited Dan Holohan, a columnist for Contractor back in the day, to take a look at my Web site. After reviewing it, Dan, asked me, “Why aren't you being published in Contractor or another similar magazine?” I told him that it had been a long-standing dream of mine to do so, but I couldn't get the time of day from them. He told me that he could change that and helped me out. Within a week I was introduced to Bob Miodonski, then editor of Contractor, and the rest is an 11 year run to date.

Yet, and this is God's honest truth, as popular as my personal Web site became (keep in mind this was years before blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and similar were created), I've never had another job opportunity come to me from my Web site, with the exception of my gig here at Contractor. So, I decided that I'm taking my personal Web site down for good by the end of this year.

While I will keep my business profile on LinkedIn, I've come to realize that I have way too much information of a personal nature within the walls of — information to which some people might take accidental offense to and, at worse, that might leave people with the false impression that I am flake at times, but, I assure you, I'm not. Yes, I am a complex person with interesting beliefs and opinions, just as you are a complex person with interesting beliefs and opinions too. But, I am telling you that you need to be careful about what information you share about yourself on all social networking Web sites, so you won't make the same mistakes I did.

Basically, if something you posted on a social networking or personal Web site doesn't relate to any past, current or potential future jobs, think long and hard before sharing it with the rest of the world. This might take the fun out of social networking sites for you, but realize that your future boss, human resource folks and coworkers — those whom you're probably hoping will eventually hire you and work with you in the near future — can gain access to the information you post on the Internet.

When you set up a personal profile at LinkedIn or Plaxo, or steer your FaceBook profile towards a business-billboard type of presentation, by all means talk about what you're comfortable talking about, but keep in mind that while it may be important to you, it may also be important to someone who can make or break your career. Always have at least one other pair of eyes read what you want to post, so they can give you an unblemished if not unvarnished perspective of how it will come across to others when they view it on the Internet. Keep in mind that anything you post can be archived in some form or the other.

Social networking and personal Web sites are not all bad — my Web site helped me fulfill my dream of becoming a columnist for Contractor. However, I know that it also cost me more career opportunities, more money and more respect than can ever be speculated. Remember this and be wary of what you post online. As far as my Web site goes, I know it's the right time to cash in my Internet chips, redefine my Web game and move on to the next phase in my life.

Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. You may contact him via email at [email protected].

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