(even if you aren’t – you may get the hang of it.)
During a recent Advisory Board meeting for a local food and beverage program a number of Human Resource executives all expressed the need for the school to teach the students the importance of maintaining a professional appearance and reputation even before they began their careers.
They were speaking, of course, about Facebook and Myspace pages and comments, but as the conversation continued it became obvious that younger job seekers are remarkably naïve regarding the necessity of a professional image. They don’t yet understand the consequences of an unprofessional image on their chances of working with the best companies, which in turn influence their entire careers.
The initial focus of the conversation were sites like Facebook, Twitter, YELP!, FourSquare, etc, where posters still believe that comments, pages liked, videos and pictures are private.
Unfortunately, opportunities to shoot your career in the foot do not stop at social networking. They abound. Every way in which you present yourself tells potential employers what you are about. One agent related the story of a candidate who drove up with a bumper sticker saying, “One mean b**ch”. The interview lasted five minutes, thank you very much for coming. “She may have been a perfectly nice person,” she stated, “but we couldn’t take the risk.”
A candidate who reports in from a series of bars or a different bar every night opens questions of substance abuse. Employees who gripe on line about their employers or staff dare new employers to wonder about their team abilities.
Stumbling on a video of a chef berating a female cook took him off my list of candidates.
Another HR Director noted that she is shocked, as I also wrote a while back, at how many applications she receives with suggestive or just plain offensive e-mail addresses.
I have dinged people for their comments on public forums – “Why do I know that it’s the best place in town? Because I’m the Chef!” thanking my stars that this ego maniac was kind enough to provide me with insights into her personality before I wasted time picking up the phone for an interview.
If someone is already on the phone and gets a voicemail message with a drunken scream or something equally disturbing, there is a good chance they will hang up.
By the time you reach sous chef status, your high school indiscretions are generally forgotten, but after that your record is your record and it is visible. Anyone hiring these days does a few quick key strokes to get an idea of you and the places you’ve worked and in the process they will come across your comments and public presence. This is, by the way, not a privacy issue. The Internet is the most public of places. Even those spaces with privacy filters may be seen and reported in casual conversation.
Despite the common belief to the contrary, the Food and Beverage Industry – restaurants, hotels, clubs et all- is an adult business which seeks professionals. Where professional skills do not yet exist, employers look for professional attitudes. For the best career, you need the best jobs early, and mindless public behavior or appearance rarely leads to them.
So what to do? Erase the compromising pictures and the sophomoric posts. Google yourself and erase any damaging traces you can. Change the voicemail message to a simple request, leave your T-Shirt stating that cooks do it with whatever in the drawer in favor of a pressed shirt when you go on an interview, scratch the offensive bumper stickers off the back of your car and control your visible environment for any and all inappropriate messages. The world does not need to know everything you do and everything you think. Keep anything you would not say in your boss’s office to yourself or share it face to face. In other words, grow up or at least act in public (which is also the internet) as if you were.. In other words, be professional.