MBA Career Advice: Think Twice Before You Hit Send

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. MBA Career Advice: Think Twice Before You Hit Send - mbaMission

You know that everything you post/write online is basically permanent, right? Intellectually, you definitely understand that – we all do. And, yet, we witness thousands of embarrassments and scandals, large and small, that show us that little prevents us from taking big or even unwitting risks.

Many have probably forgotten or may have grown up after the “Chung is King,” emails went viral in 2001, but since then there have been dozens of disasters large and small, in virtually every field – politics, media, academia, etc. – to remind us to stop and think before pressing “send.” We have seen legislators become punchlines, a la Anthony Weiner, and renowned business people, such as venture capitalist, Tom Perkins, sully their reputations. (Perkins penned a letter to the Wall Street Journal equating persecution of the 1% to the persecution of Jews at the hands of the Nazis). Of course, the list goes on an on and on. And still, we all think we are smarter than others and that our names won’t end up in the bright lights for the wrong reasons.

We are more accustomed to sharing our thoughts and lives these days, but here are a few things to keep in mind so that you don’t create a permanently detrimental record…

  1. If it feels questionable, don’t tweet/share/send it: if you have even a whiff of anxiety or concern about posting something, don’t do it. Whether you intend to post a photo of late night partying or a sarcastic review of a film you just saw, if it worries you even just the tiniest bit that everyone you will ever know could read it and attribute it you, then don’t send it out in the world. Even if you think it is just a private email. Can we repeat this again for emphasis? Don’t do it!
  2. Think carefully even when confident: Above, we noted Tom Perkins as an example. Perkins did not just write a one-line sentence and mistakenly tweet it out — he penned a full letter to the Journal. He had to have had a great deal of confidence in what he had written. He might have intended to ruffle some feathers, but clearly did not anticipate that kind of backlash. Our point is that even if what you write feels right/clever/just, think critically anyway. You might catch yourself before its too late.
  3. Think long term: Something that you post now, may seem like it is brilliant now and who knows – maybe it is, but times change. Think about Brendon Eich, who was briefly CEO of Mozilla in 2014, until it was discovered that he made a donation to a group opposing gay marriage in 2008 (2008!) and was forced to step down. It seems unlikely that Eich could have imagined that a six year old donation – not a tweet or a post — that he made as a private citizen could have prevented him from leading Mozilla, until it did. Times change – what you write, post or even do now, can become a matter of public record and catch up to you.

At this point, you may be worried about an Orwellian world that is watching you at every turn. Keep in mind that no one is goading you into pushing the limits. Just be reasonable about what and where you share your thoughts and pictures and you should be just fine.

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