Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, a relatively small party in the UK focused on limiting EU powers there, has been under fire recently for his behaviour thirty years ago. Only now emerging are debates and thoughts about Farage, that his teacher’s confidentially shared between them when he was a teenager, all those years ago.
As it turns out, his teachers found Farage to not only be disruptive, but to have apparently fascistic views. Some were even so concerned, they tried to block his appointment as a prefect. There’s been much debate around this, and it’s unclear how much of the new information that’s come to light is grounded in fact. Some people say that Farage was known to have sung Hitler Youth songs and to have had connection with fascist groups, but Farage himself has shrugged off the allegations by saying he was never a fascist, but had views he no longer has, and was more interested in creating debate and inflaming some sensibilities. I don’t know what is true, but what I wonder is whether it matters?
Okay, the reaction to anyone admitting they used to buy into fascistic ideologies isn’t going to be good, but we all do silly things when in our teens, and we go through phases, and we buy into things that we wouldn’t buy into now. Who doesn’t look back at their teenage years and think, at least about one aspect of their lives, that they’re embarrassed beyond description?
This is all incredibly relevant to personal brand, and personal brand in the non-political workplace. To a degree, our past communicates to others what we are like in the present. Whilst politicians’ lives are examined in more detail than most, our past is under closer scrutiny now than before, simply because we allow people access to it with the greatest of ease. People have Facebook accounts where you can see them age. Or where you can see them being drunk. Or where you can see them every time they’ve ever been drunk since 2008.
Does you getting really drunk three years ago affect your performance in your job now? No. But having seventy pictures of it online can tarnish your image, especially in the eyes of a potential employer. They can and do check out people’s personal social media (it is public after all), to get a gist of what they’d be like as an employee. Some people have been found to be bad-mouthing their employers or future employers, unflattering pictures have embarrassed others, and many have not got the job they want because of these things.
Whilst the facts that have come to light regarding Farage have nothing to do with social media, the message it reminds us of, is. What you did in the past is probably irrelevant, but if not managed properly, it can damage your personal brand. You might get drunk twice a year, but if that’s all your Facebook has pictures of, it’s going to look like that’s all you do.
Developing your brand, especially when seeking new employment, isn’t just about presenting your physical self well and making an impact in person, it’s about presenting your virtual self well too.