- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Career Advice for Ex-Military:

The Online You, Friend or Foe?
by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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You are out there day after day, slugging away in search of the perfect job for your ex-military career. You revise your resume, buy the new suit, and network ad nauseam, certain in the belief that victory will ultimately be yours.

Finally, you land an interview with a great company. Things are definitely looking up as you find yourself sitting across from the guy who you sense just might turn out to be your new boss. The conversation, however, begins quite unexpectedly.

"So, I see you have a penchant for dancing," he says smugly and with a smile that seems to say he is hiding some dirty little secret. What is this all about? Your mind races and suddenly you remember the less than flattering picture posted on your personal Web space, the one that shows you vigorously dancing in celebration of something that has now become a blur. What does not escape you is the likelihood that this employer has already formed a first and perhaps lasting impression of you based on something you thoughtlessly posted in fun on the Internet. You are, in a word, busted.

According to the 2009 U.S. Hiring Forecast published by CareerBuilder, the Internet continues to emerge as a viable recruitment tool of choice for employers throughout America. Nineteen percent of surveyed employers say they plan to use the Internet to locate potential employees. Seven percent of employers surveyed said they use social networking sites to ferret out the best candidates while 26 percent say they will also use "new media" sources such as blogs in the recruiting process. Is this good or bad news for you?

Damage control techniques

To begin your military-to-civilian transition cyber-management cleanup campaign, navigate to the nearest online major search engine and plug in your own name, spelling it both correctly and incorrectly. Brace yourself for what might appear on the screen before your very eyes - a genuine look at how others see you on computer monitors around the world - and decide whether you can live with your findings comfortably or not. Ask yourself if an employer would be impressed or distressed at what it finds from that vantage point.

If the option is available, continue to monitor your good name by setting up a request or an alert on the search engine so you can be notified immediately if your name pops up elsewhere. Here are some additional tips:

  • Stop posting potentially incriminating content altogether - accept that your "TO-GA, TO-GA, TO-GA" days are over.
  • Ask your friends to stop tagging photos of you. Explain your reasons and ask that they respect your wishes. If they are real friends, they will comply; otherwise, block them permanently.
  • Modify your privacy settings on any sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn or Facebook. Since you cannot control what others post about you, block comments from being posted on your pages by people unknown to you.
  • Pull pictures (tagged or otherwise) of yourself and delete all questionable content.
  • Be selective about your online contacts and groups. Your parents were onto something when they said others judge you by your friends. Fair? Maybe not. Reality? You bet.
  • Plan for the worst and prepare a response to an employer's inquiry regarding what cannot be changed.

Finally, use your online presence positively. It can be an asset to you professionally if you treat it as an extension of the professional you for your new ex-military career.

Janet Farley is the author of “The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide and she writes the JobTalk column for the Stars and Stripes newspaper.  She can be reached at for comments and/or column suggestions.


Return to June 2009 Issue