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Cyber career killers

From Robert Half International

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(CareerBuilder.com) -- Technology is supposed to be good for your career, right? After all, with Blackberrys and other devices, you can stay on top of work developments around the clock.

But when used unwisely, technology can be a career saboteur.

On the job hunt

When it comes to applying for a job, the days of stamps and envelopes have passed. The vast majority of resumes and cover letters are submitted electronically, making a person's e-mail address an important piece of contact information. But using a cute, playful or downright inappropriate e-mail address can be a quick way to eliminate your chances of earning a call from interested employers. Consider "surfgod@example.com" or "borntoparty@example.com."

While your friends may get a kick out of your sense of humor, those outside your circle won't be in on the joke. The best type of e-mail address to use for professional correspondence is one that includes your name or a combination of your name and some numbers. Here are two examples: "roberthalf@example.com" and "rhalf1948@example.com."

Another technology trap to watch out for is attaching the wrong document to an employment application. More than one professional has had their hopes dashed after inadvertently submitting an outdated resume, incomplete cover letter or even documents completely unrelated to the job search. A good rule of thumb: Once you attach a document to an e-mail, open it before hitting send to ensure it's the correct one.

In the workplace

New federal rules enacted at the end of last year make it more likely your employer is saving electronic communications among employees. That's even more reason business e-mail should be all business. Off-color or offensive jokes or messages should be immediately deleted and never forwarded to others. Discourage friends from sending them to you in the first place. Also avoid e-mailing about sensitive topics, such as politics or office gossip. Not only could your messages prove embarrassing, they also could land you in trouble with your employer. Don't be fooled into thinking that your exchange will remain private. According to anti-spam firm ProofPoint, 38 percent of companies with 1,000 or more workers employ staff to read or analyze outgoing e-mail messages. If you must send a personal note, use a personal e-mail account and send it from your personal computer.

The same holds true for your Internet activities. Your employer has the right to monitor the activities you conduct on your company-supplied computer and Internet connection -- and many do. In fact, a poll by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute indicates that 26 percent of companies have terminated employees over Internet misuse. So, avoid visiting off-limits Web sites, viewing online video and checking your Internet auctions until you're out of the office.

Of course, for many professionals, the computer holds less interest that an iPod or other portable music player. While some companies allow employees to don headphones while on the job, check with your boss about your firm's policy before doing so. Even if this activity is condoned, think twice about playing your music too loudly. Use headphones instead. Just don't spend all of your day listening to hot hits. Show your employer you're engaged in the job.

Outside the office

Even outside the office, workers aren't immune to technology gaffes. When meeting with clients or other business contacts for lunch or dinner, interrupting the conversation to answer a ringing cell phone could immediately sour the mood. The simple fix: Place your cell phone on silent mode and let voice mail answer any calls. Even if set on "vibrate," your phone might still make noise. If you must take an incoming call or answer an urgent e-mail, excuse yourself and make it brief.

Also, keep tabs on your use of your cell phone and Blackberry use. If your firm provides you with these tools, you need to follow your company's usage policy, even if you make calls outside of work hours or to personal acquaintances.

Never before has technology been so central to the way people work. By being aware of business protocol for e-mail, Internet use and cell phones, you can be sure these tools work for you, and not against you.

Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit http://www.rhi.com/portal/site/rhi-usexternal link.


© Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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