Never send anything in an email that you wouldn’t want in your personnel file, and other personal branding tips


I was reading a blog on the CAREEREALISM website about personal online branding , Career Truth #1: Brand or Be Branded, and flashed back to a sage bit of advice I once heard from a good friend: “Never send anything in an email that you wouldn’t want in your personnel file.”

Online communication can be a dangerous thing

I had to laugh when he said it, because we’ve all hit “reply to all” when we only meant to reply to the original sender, or replied with pithy comment when we thought we were forwarding to someone else.  Some of us have forwarded the inappropriate joke on the company domain only to wish we hadn’t, or made inappropriate comments about bosses or clients.  There’s a word for this kind of action: boneheaded.

And I still laugh about the email I received years ago from a complete stranger that simply read, “Eat my n***.”  He had sent it to a distance learning distro list by accident, while only intending it to go to a friend.  Minutes later a second email came in that began, “Oh no, no, nooo, please God tell me I didn’t send this to everybody!”  He went on to apologize profusely and claimed he was referring to Planters Peanuts, but the damage had already been done.

Brand yourself proactively and deliberately


Let’s take this a step further.  If the “don’t” advice is good with regard to email, then the converse is also a smart strategy for your personal online branding: “Do post things online that you’d want a potential employer to see.”

Jobseekers and career enthusiasts need to think seriously about the message they’re sending every time they post on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  Your message ought to be proactive, deliberate, consistent, and focused.  One that you’d be happy for your boss, a recruiter, or hiring manager to see.  Because trust me, they will find what you’ve posted.

This isn’t to say you should create a false identity, an illusion instead of who you really are. That will eventually blow up in your face.  Never fabricate stuff, but think about how every post will add to, or detract from, the professional image you’re building.

Are you a subject matter expert in a particular area?  Post about it and let everyone see your expertise.    Tempted to retweet an off-color comment?  Think again – nobody wants to be associated with someone whose judgment is questionable.  Loosey goosey on Facebook?  Not if you want to be taken seriously.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but it does mean you’re thinking about whether your next post will move you closer to – or further away from – your goal.

It comes down to this: Be in control of your brand!

How are you branding yourself online?  Post your comments, tips, and hints below.


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