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Ask the Headhunter/ Branding & Communications

A Painful Online Personal Brand


by Nick Corcodilos
Contributing Writer

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In today’s volatile economy, chances are good that you may have to change your career objectives. Is your personal brand strong enough to support you through the transition?

Early last year I wrote a column titled “The Painful Truth About Your Online Personal Brand.” This week I want to tell you about a guy who is quite pained about the truth of his online personal brand because he ignored some of the stuff we said you have to pay attention to. To wit, a healthy brand is built on quality and consistency, or it’ll never transport you where you want to go. And this guy wants to go somewhere new.

Marc Cenedella is the CEO of TheLadders—the “ONLY $100K+ JOBS” executive-job board. But it was revealed again and again that Cenedella’s company was posting jobs that pay a lot less than $100K—while paying customers continued to complain across the Web. An HR manager at one multinational corporation complained that Cenedella’s company was scraping her job listings and inflating the salaries so he’d have something to sell his customers, even after she asked his representatives to cut it out.

Oops. When you don’t respond to complaints responsibly, you lose a customer. When your customers complain online and you ignore them, your quality goes and your brand withers. TheLadders turned out not to be consistent—it became clear that there were too many sub-$100K jobs and job hunters in the database. Cenedella’s response was not to fix the quality problem. It was to make his company totally inconsistent with the “$100K+ ONLY” promise on the home page—he opened the database to anyone and everyone. TheLadders brand withered, and Cenedella decided to move on.

How tied is his personal brand to TheLadders?

For years, Cenedella’s objectives were clearly in the career industry. He cultivated his credibility and expertise through many channels, including personal and TheLadders blogs. He has written a lot of articles for his job-hunting customers. In “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” Cenedella advises to be careful about your online reputation. “But if you find material [about yourself online] that might put you in the wrong light, it’s important to try and do something about it.”

The New York Times just reported that it knows what Cenedella has been doing for years. “Under the Name of a Senate Hopeful, Blog Posts on Sex and Drugs” reveals a bigger problem with quality—poor judgment. Now he has an online women’s political group after him, demanding he apologize for his misogynistic behavior. Showing a lousy job of taking his own advice, Cenedella quickly did something about it: He denied he wrote the stuff and had it removed.

Oops. Denying your brand is not good for your brand.

Now Cenedella wants a new career. His dream job is U.S. senator; he’s campaigning in the state of New York, promising to spend his personal fortune in an effort to cultivate favor with a political party. Changing careers is not a surprising reaction when your job isn’t working out. But your online brand follows you around no matter where you go. Your brand must be stalwart enough to support you through the trials and tribulations of changing jobs.

Oops. Your career objectives might change, but the online brand you created for yourself doesn't.

Have you pulled out the ladder from under your own online personal brand? Join me on the discussion forum.

About Nick Corcodilos

Nick Corcodilos writes "Ask The Headhunter," a weekly blog on in which he shows you how to tackle the daunting obstacles that job hunters and managers face when trying to work together. From time to time, Corcodilos also will provide feature stories offering insights into various management career strategies, In addition, his newest books, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, How to Work with Headhunters and How Can I Change Careers?, are available as PDFs.