Why Reputation Management Matters

Have you noticed how often CFOs are forced to step down or resign because of some unethical or questionable behavior? True or not, once that story hits the Internet it goes viral … within minutes.

And what happens to the career of that Senior Finance Executive, who is a) innocent and has a very accomplished track record or b) despite a brilliant career made one bad decision … once the first 3 pages of Google are full of nothing but every single negative thing that has ever happened in this CFO’s life – relevant to the charges or not?

If there is no foundation of credibility already established, it will be very difficult and take a long, long time to recover from the viral assault of digital dirt. And, it is quite possible that this Chief Financial Officer would find his finance career finished. If the only public information available is negative … regardless of whether or not it’s true … what will most people believe about him? What “he” says on his resume or what “everyone else” says?

On the other hand, if this same CFO finds himself hitting a bump in the road and has a strong record of both visibility and credibility, his chances of recovering, and recovering relatively quickly, are much, much better. His long record of accomplishments already owned the first 3 pages of Google’s high-value real estate, and perhaps even extended to the first 5-10 pages. Any negativity can be countered, or at least balanced, with all of the positives that already exist. And, because his name is already friendly to the Google search engines, he can quickly begin supplanting the negative comments, innuendos, and charges.

As in every other phase of career management, it is much easier to build and control your reputation now, while you are gainfully employed and delivering solid contributions, then it will be if you find yourself in crisis mode.

The Internet, Web 2.0, and Google are the new normal. You can either get in the game and play to win … or not. Because, you are who Google says you are.

Over-promoted and Over His Head

How would you like that headline to appear in the #1 slot in a Google search of your name? While this is a fictionalized story of a CFO turned CEO, could you find yourself the “victim” of digital dirt?

And here’s another potential career killer headline in Reuters … “Boston Provident fires CFO Levy for alleged theft.” Or this one, “Ex-Petters Co. CFO ‘Lied for a Living’.

I know, I know. I can hear you now. Those are a big deal and I would never appear in such a headline. Thankfully, that is true for the majority of people. But what about the small stuff? Comments taken out of context in a conversation with a reporter, a statement you made on a controversial position in a Board meeting, an adversarial comment you left on a blog … again, used out of context, or an irritated comment you left on a public forum. 

If you aren’t checking your online identity, how do you know what’s being said about you? In today’s social media world, you are who Google says you are. 

The most recent stats I’ve heard were from an ERE personal branding seminar last week … 77% of executive recruiters use search engines to research applicants and 59% of hiring managers are influenced by your online identity. On an initial Google search by recruiters, could you be confused with someone with an unsavory reputation? What if one of these CFOs happens to share your name … do you also get to carry his baggage?

Testament to how critical a digital footprint is to one’s career is the article in the Wall Street Journal … “More Job Seekers Scramble to Erase Their Criminal Past.” Again, you might not have a criminal past but someone who shares your name may. And as the article states, digital dirt is nearly impossible to eradicate. That also applies to the “small stuff.”

Headhunter Secrets to Social Networking

Recruiter Bill Vick was shining in the CFO–Career–Forum this week. He offered a fast–paced and compelling argument for why you, Mr. Finance Executive, should leverage social networking as a key part of an overall branding strategy.

My favorite statement from Bill was this … “You are who Google says you are,” followed by “You are your brand.” And he’s right. And that trend is going to become even more important in the future.

According to Execunet’s "Dealing With Your Digital Dirt" report, the number of recruiters who use search engines to uncover information about candidate is up almost 10% over 2005 figures. Additionally, the number of recruiters who said they have eliminated a candidate because of information they found on the Internet is up 17% over that same time period.

Leveraging the power of Linked In was a big part of Bill’s social networking insight, and his tip at the end was worth the price of admission. I hope you caught it!

My long–time readers will recognize Bill’s philosphy as being one I have been preaching for quite awhile … having a visible online brand positions you as the clear and compelling choice and is a vital long–term career management strategy.