While Kindergarten provides you with the building blocks for life: Ignore the First Rule You Learned!

Before we get to the rule, let me set the stage…

While doing some research on Online Reputation Management (ORM) and social screening for a training session, I ran across a great post from Mark Kaye. He played off the poster/book, “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten”. Mark first lists the kindergarten ‘rules’ and then discusses how that applies to SEO and the world of social media.

I love Mark’s article but I have to disagree with him on perhaps the most important everyday rule. (Sorry Mark!)


When facilitating a Junior Achievement session for grade eight students we discussed applying for jobs (as these students were convinced by a budgeting exercise to stay in school and aim for a good job). The facilitation notes suggested that the facilitator should caution the students about the impact social media. (Hmm… where to start on that??)

Your digital legacy does not disappear. You know that and I know that, but some of these bright young students did not understand the impact.


I followed my ‘digital rant’ with a lively discussion of tagging. The students all understood what tagging was. When I asked what would happen if a potential employer saw Facebook pictures of them doing something silly at a party. They objected, “Well I wouldn’t post that on Facebook!” I countered with, “It doesn’t have to be you: a friend or stranger can post a picture and tag you.” That got their attention. I added, “OR someone may even tag a picture that isn’t you.” Some students looked horrified: now there was silence and complete focus on the topic.

The discussion continued with real life examples, like the Domino’s Pizza YouTube ‘scandal’. Plenty has been written about that scandal and some young people have even copied it. [Links to video copycats are not included because of profane language.]

I cautioned these students on things they had learned in kindergarten: Rule#2 “play nice” with others and Rule#3 “don’t hit people”. If you don’t ‘play’ fair how are others going to ‘play’?  If you slam someone or post inappropriate pictures, what does that say about you?

That being said, I advised them to set themselves up (with profile settings and alerts) to ensure they knew when they were tagged or talked about. (i.e. Rule#10: watch out for traffic.) It is easier to fix a problem, it you know it exists. I explained that a REAL friend will take down that embarrassing picture of you or delete the YouTube video of you talking about the person you have a crush on.


Yes, managing your middle school or high school reputation to land job is different than managing your reputation to land a job mid-career. But remember that legacy…

Just like Tim Giehll, I’ve found countless blog posts talking about the legal ramifications regarding ‘social screening’.  If you were a small firm reading these articles, you’d be petrified to check out someone’s Facebook. Understanding the downside, large companies (with a stable of lawyers) have set out guidelines on who, how and when applicants can be screened with social media. If you are a small company and unable to do that, you should check out some helpful practical advice from Jerry D. Thurber’s recruiting blog.

But do hiring managers follow those guidelines and advice? Here is some undisputable data from Tim’s article “Screening Applicants With Social Media” :

“According to a CareerBuilder survey of 2,600 employers in 2009, 45 percent reported using social media sites in an attempt to research a candidate with another 11 percent planning to begin utilizing social media account reviews this year.”

Although there may be legal ramifications for employers, you need to ask yourself how difficult and costly it would be to prove you were discriminated against because someone saw an uncomplimentary Twitter tweet or Facebook post.


That is why, you should listen to your Mother and ‘wash behind your ears’ just as Rita Jackson suggests in her blog post outlining the do’s and don’ts of social media.

AND Ignore Rule#1: Share Everything.

In kindergarten we were taught to share everything: toys, materials and information. We regularly shared family secrets and gossip during Show and Tell. (If you wanted to know anything, you just had to ask a kindergarten teacher.) I recall one day my mother, who had volunteered, was horrified as my teacher allowed a fellow student to outline the graphic details of an unfortunate situation. (New rules were discussed at the dinner table that evening: “What is discussed at this table, stays at this table!” AND “What happens at home, stays at home!”)

For social media and  kindergarten Show and Tell: some things should not be shared. I do agree with Mark that you should share advice, content and value using social media; however, I advise you to share less about your personal life. (I know that too sounds like motherhood, but I can’t believe the number of people that describe situations and  challenges that could impact their personal or professional relationships and reputation.)


Now, having said that all of that: People are people and they are going to believe what they want to believe as outlined in this article “People Filter Information”.

Yes, filtering can occur at anytime. Impressions do count, especially first impressions. So make sure the impression your digital legacy leaves is a positive one:


  • Follow Rules #2 & #3: Don’t Kiss & Tell as it says volumes about you.
  • Ignore Rule #1: Don’t Show & Tell everything (only some things).
  • Follow Rule #10: Watch out for traffic. Knowing there is a large ‘truck’ going to hit you (i.e. your reputation) will give you a better opportunity react and jump out of the way.

So, what did YOU learn in kindergarten that you can apply today to your online presence? Please leave me a comment and I’ll share some kindergarten anecdotes guaranteed to give you a giggle.

Until next time…


Flickr Creative Commons Image by Rachel a. k.