The saying often goes “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Those that rely on connections to give their accomplishments weight in the professional world know how true this can be. However, many are coming to more painfully understand that this isn’t the full truth. Another way to say it might be “It’s not who you know, but who knows you.” With the World Wide Web and social networking as widespread as they are, more and more of our lives is put out there for all to see. Humans are social creatures, and we are naturally inclined to share things with one another. However, our newfound technology to share has left us with an unfortunate vulnerability: reputation tracking websites that operate without any regulation.

There are many different sites that are intended to track details about people, vetting their qualifications, accolades and histories. These can be very helpful resources for professionals working their way up through the ranks or seeking greener pastures as potential employers can get solid records of their accomplishments. However, it can be difficult to manage what gets made public about you, and it’s entirely possible for untrue reports to be put up about you.

The first and most obvious problem is the possibility that someone will put out an erroneous bad review for you. This could be a business acquaintance acting in bad faith, or it could be a personal acquaintance acting out of spite and trying to attack you. On the flip side, it could be that you’re receiving a bad review because you earned it, but there isn’t any way to discern the difference between the two as an employer exploring a candidate’s history on the web.

The same, alarmingly, goes for positive reports. Erroneous positive things may be attributed to you, either by innocent mistake or by particularly-clever vandals. When these accomplishments cannot be verified, it may be perceived as you padding your resume. Naturally, this doesn’t do anything to endear you to potential employers, and it can cause a lot of trouble for you through no fault of your own.

The same effect can apply to “civilian” social networking sites that have no professional associations. False profiles, unflattering photographs posted without your consent, opt-out invitations and other unfortunate things can all damage your reputation without you having to go near a computer. If you do use social networking frequently, no good deed goes unpunished: determined vandals can make even a good profile on the web look bad.

More professionals are turning to reputation protection to prevent happenings like this from dragging down their careers. If you have your eyes on the future, you probably know better than to defame yourself on the web whee the entire world can see. There isn’t much of anything you can do about a vandal who has it in for you, however. While you may be asked to explain unseemly internet reports in a thorough interview, it’s more likely that you won’t be given the chance.

Organizations like the aptly-named reputation.com have been formed to help combat problems with online reputation. They are coming forward in criticism of sites that allow for defamation without recourse, but until the causes can be alleviated, they do excellent work bringing down defamatory content. A good reputation-management firm will establish truthful social profiles on your half, send takedown notices out for photos posted without your permission, destroy false profiles as they are able and take your reputation on the web into their hands. Part consultant and part attack dog, they’re the best offense and defense for your reputation on the web front. While there are always stray files and emergent new problems that they won’t be able to assist with, their efforts can make the difference between getting or losing an interview. That’s why more professionals are turning to them as the benefits of their services are understood better.