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Don't Vent In Public

From Career Tips, 2010 Volume 5, May 2010

Every job seeker knows never to criticize past employers. But how many actually apply the broader concept behind that to everything they do?

Consider this: Why is it that you shouldn't criticize past employers or bosses?

For one thing, you don't want to be seen as a negative person, a whiner or a complainer, and have me worrying what you will say about me or my company behind my back. People who do that are viewed as toxic.

So how is it any different when you vent at a networking event, or in an email or on-line posting? It's amazing to me how often I see exactly this mistake made.

Consider this excerpt from a posting by corporate recruiter Michael Spiro:

"Recently, I read a series of discussion posts on a Yahoo Group website belonging to a large, well-known job-seekers organization. The topic of the discussion was Unemployment Compensation ... the discussion quickly devolved into a nasty argument when one person ranted that 'too many are looking more for government handouts than actually finding a job' and called them 'jerks.' The name-calling and insults then flew back and forth.

As I read this, my mouth hung open with astonishment at how utterly stupid these people were being. It was not the content of the argument that got to me - it was the totally unprofessional and immature tone of the comments. These people had their names and email addresses attached to those messages!!! And yet they seemingly had given no thought at all to how those juvenile comments made them look to other readers."

What opinion do you think others in that large group might form of those making the unprofessional and immature comments - people who might have some influence in making valuable connections for them?

It only takes an unguarded instant to undo many, many positive attempts to create a strong, professional image. If you've seen several highly professional posts by a particular person, followed by one 'clunker', aren't you likely to conclude that the clunker is finally showing a bit of their true, unguarded self?

This doesn't mean you can't let your guard down among your friends. Just be very aware of the risks, and do it carefully.

It is important to have a support network where you can let down your guard for a while. Create a very small cadre of trusted allies with whom you can vent when you need to, and then only when you really need to do so.

Just don't wallow in it. Make sure that even those people also get to see the upbeat, professional you. Show them how hard you are working to make something happen, even if you are frustrated with the results. Call to let them know when something good occurs, even if it's just that someone actually returned your phone call this time. Create some balance, and show them that you are trying to keep the negative in context, so that you don't burn out your support network.

By the way, give some careful consideration not to just rely on your family for that support network. Even though your spouse may be very supportive, it can be very draining for him or her to be your primary venting recipient, particularly since your spouse may feel powerless to help you. After all, they can't network or interview for you!

Once you have that clearly defined support network, stay positive with all other contacts and forums, emails and postings. Let the world see what an upbeat, confident professional you are - the sort of person they would really want on their own teams.

As a friend who is an outstanding networker often says, stick to ABC ... Always Be Confident! And NEVER VENT IN PUBLIC!

For more on maintaining a powerful professional image, see:

"Guard Your Professional Image"


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