As we push through college basketball’s March Madness and look ahead to graduation, perhaps it is time to reconnect with some important career management rules, especially given the hyper-competitive job market and the fact that far too many students will struggle to find a full-time job.

Seth Godin

By Joi Ito (Seth Godin), via Wikimedia Commons

This weekend, a posting on the concept of a “backlist” by marketing guru Seth Godin, one of the most popular bloggers in the world, caught my attention.  What is the backlist?  I will allow Mr. Godin to explain it: 

“Authors and musicians have one.  This is the book you wrote seven years ago or the album from early in your career.  The book keeps selling, spreading the ideas and making a difference.  The album gets played on the radio, earning you new fans.

“Backlist is what publishers call the stuff that got published a while ago, but that’s still out there, selling.

“The Wizard of Oz, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits and Starsky and Hutch all live on the backlist,” Mr. Godin writes. 

But wait, there’s more, and the more, when it comes to how the backlist can impact career management, should sometimes be less. 

Your Twitter account, your Facebook, your MySpace, and all your other social media sites that you post to make up your personal backlist.  Once it is out there, it stays out there.

Mr. Godin shared an excellent example of how less is more:  “I almost hired someone a few years ago–until I Googled her and discovered that the first two matches were pictures of her drinking beer from a funnel, and her listed hobby was, ‘binge drinking.’”


My youngest son and I had a spirited debate several years ago about whether it was fair for recruiters or potential employers to troll these social media sites for their “personal posts.”  As a relatively recent college graduate at the time, he felt that material should be off limits.  I responded that it shouldn’t be, that once it is in the public domain, regardless of how unflattering, it is out there and we should not be expected to ignore information that could help establish a more complete profile of a candidate for employment. 

It was not surprising, then, for me to hear from other college students and graduates who felt that it was not “fair” for unflattering pictures to be examined even though many thought it was perfectly fine for us to evaluate and use flattering information.  Well, in the world of career management, as the saying goes, if you want “fair” come to Dallas in October.  It is called the State Fair.   

A better rule of thumb is not to post photos or statements to your social media sites that you would not want your parents or a future employer to see.  If you are at a party where drinking games are part of the evening entertainment, then perhaps a no camera of any kind rule should be imposed. 

Never, ever, post a photograph of a friend in a compromising position unless you would be thrilled if they posted an unflattering picture of you.  You may think it is cute – a gotcha iPhone moment – but actually this is just a bad gift that keeps on giving.   

It is just common courtesy and common sense in the digital age.