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Decisions Matter

March 6, 2012

On occasions when I talk to high-school students, I’ll mention that every decision they make will matter, and that is especially true when it comes to online activity.  I usually get a bit of incredulity… can a decision a particular person makes decades earlier actually mean something after all that time?  Well, yes.  On a less-timely scale, here’s a good example: some scholarship providers are starting to do online searches before awarding money to prospective college students.

Although only a handful of providers – fewer than 10 – denied a scholarship based on their online sleuthing, the practice could become more common, as it has in employment.

None of the providers were doing “real extensive research or background checks on applicants,” he says. “They are looking for red flags.”

Providers “are looking at whether the individual has good sense and will reflect well on the organization. There is the recognition that kids will be kids and will occasionally cross the line,” Kantrowitz adds. “Where they have zero tolerance is if they find information online that is inconsistent with what is on the application. If you are applying for a scholarship for poor students and your home is in a ZIP code with million-dollar homes, that will raise some questions.”

Sure, a lot of this is mostly looking for inconsistencies.  But the article makes a point that many providers are looking for behavior that would not reflect well on the scholarship or the provider itself.  Obviously, a random posting on Facebook that gets too far out of the circle could make someone pause before they ask you to represent their good name.  This isn’t any different from what employers do, but it’s something that a lot of kids wouldn’t expect.  Frankly, it’s still not something that most employees expect.

As my friend, Monique, and I recently said, it’s all about ensuring that you present yourself the way people would want to see you:

And remember what Monique calls the “Grandma Standard”: If you think your grandmother would be appalled or ashamed to read what you’ve written or to see you in a questionable pose in a photo, it’s probably best to not post it. In other words, be passionate but don’t be impetuous when you share information about yourself online because it will live in some shape or form forever. Doing something embarrassing now seems cute until it results in an opportunity lost years down the road.

On a similar note, I’ve occasionally commented to someone that what I’ve written on the blog here could eventually impact my career if I was looking for a new job.  Politicla views, for instance, are very difficult to leave in a social setting, and I could see particular employers (like, if I ever wanted a green energy job, or something in education administration) might not like my views.  I choose to live with that, but I do it with open eyes.  It’s trickier when someone who’s never learned that lesson sees it in action for the first time.

So make sure those young ones you know and see around you at least get the lesson before it’s too late.  The sensible ones will pay more attention than you think.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2012 4:00 pm

    I know a kid that got expelled from his school thanks to an impulsive and inappropriate post regarding a school employee. talk about a learning curve.

    My Mom reads my blog, so having her in the audience sure helps me self censure. Still, I wonder what folks would find objection to, should there ever be a reason to pore thru my past some day in the future. I’m sure I’ve “liked” and “shared” all the wrong things.


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