Perhaps it was because I’m Chinese American and my Chinese parents were rather crazed about education. I did graduate high school with a 4.2 GPA and considered myself an academic failure (still do in fact). My parents used to threaten us that our grades and other bad things we did would go on our permanent records. I’m sure some of the bad grades I got (B’s?) are stored somewhere, but the permanence of them is questionable. If I tried hard enough, I could probably find a transcript, but who really cares? The permanent record is only meaningful so long as anyone cares to look.
This changes once you get into the workforce. You get a bad performance review and it’s going to follow you around in that company for a very long time. One wrong comment in a meeting with the CIO and you are not living that puppy down for years. But one can always move on, and most things don’t truly last forever, especially if you switch divisions or companies. Pretty much, when someone calls your old company for a reference, there is about 10% chance that job and last date worked are the only tidbits of information anyone will get. There are things that seem to last longer now…
Ok, admit it, sometime this year, you have Googled yourself to find out if your name is on the first page of hits. I’m happy to admit it. I probably search myself once a quarter, but it’s not some narcissistic thinking in the back of my mind that is driving me to do it. I could care less that on a random friend’s web browser I’m 8 of the top 10 hits. (yeah, don’t search for yourself on your own PC – Google and others have figured this out and move hits about yourself up apparently). What I really care about is my reputation. My Facebook, Linkedin, systematicHR, published articles are all out there. I’ve had conversations and arguments on the web, all recorded on some server I have no control over.
That picture of me on Yammer pretending to be Vanna White at some client change management thing (there was a whole spin wheel for prizes and everything). I’m horrified, but it is out there forever. (Damn you Erin!!!) I might do silly things that I regret later, but I manage myself pretty well that I don’t do stupid things. Somewhere along the line, a recruiter will undoubtedly look at a candidate profile of me on Taleo or Brassring, or whatever, and see all the web tidbits that link back to me. They owe it to their companies to get a complete picture of who I am and how I’ll fit into the organization. I owe it to myself to make sure that it’s a realistic picture, and not one tainted by one or two events that will stain the rest of the image. If the worst thing anyone ever finds is that I helped with some change management, I can live with that.