I recently attended a dinner and encountered a situation in which I realized just how important reputation management for teenagers and young adults might be. The hosts of the party are long time family friends and both are local politicians. The husband is state Congressman and the wife a local Supreme Court judge. However it is their daughter, who was recently accepted to Vassar that is the point of mention here. I was talking with her and of course we went through the standard, “Have you decided on a major?” and she explained that she’s always loved history and political science and she intends on following in her parent’s political footsteps. And that’s when it hit me. I said,” Of course you know that’s really going to put you in the public eye.” She replied, “Oh yes, but I’ve had experience with that all my life and actually really enjoy it.” I told her, “What I mean is, is there anything out ?there’ that you wouldn’t want associated with your character?” She looked at me as if I was trying to provoke her but I retreated and explained what it is I do for a living. I simply followed up with, “Do you have a MySpace page?” She gleamed and said, “Of course!” and proceeded to tell me the wild times she and her girlfriends had at the beach recently. Shortly thereafter you could tell that she finally caught on to what I was getting at…
Granted, we all go through those somewhat accepted wild periods during our youth. But damn! The stuff teenage girls and guys post on MySpace, Facebook and other social media sites is pretty wild. Are they all auditioning for the adult entertainment industry? The content you posted from Spring Break when you’re 17 may seem cool, funny, risqu?, sexy but once it’s out there it no longer belongs to you; now it’s shareware. Even worse, video content of you going wild at a frat house can have more of an immediate impact than you may think. Think about it, you’re 22 years old, you’re in your senior year at university and you are applying for an intern position with one of the final four accounting firms. I used to work for KPMG and trust me the term conservative doesn’t even come close to describing the manner in which they expect you to conduct yourself. So If H/R does a search for you (and believe me more and more hiring departments are) and they find some wet and wild content there is a chance you will be passed over.
Look, social networking and content sharing is awesome and I fully support it. Just think before you act. If it’s something that you wouldn’t want your own grandmother to see, don’t post it. Or just keep all your media content at a PG-13 level. I know this seems boring and not nearly as fun R or NC-17 but trust me, a little conservative forethought will ensure no skeletons come flying out of the closet when you’re ready to become a working professional young adult.
I can not believe I just posted this blog yesterday and this morning on FOX News I see Virgin Mobile has teenagers submitting videos of themselves stripping in order for Virgin to make clothing donations to the homeless! ?You take your clothes off and we?ll donate them to the homeless.? Classic. Proves my point that reputation management for teenagers is indeed valid?