You would be forgiven for thinking that your first day in a new job is a clean slate. No assumptions, no preconceptions, and you will at least be able to get your foot in the door and make a first impression before anything could possibly go wrong. Plenty of people have made mistakes in their career or have behaved in an unprofessional manner at some point, but as long as you learn from these mistakes and are discreet and professional going forward, you will be fine. Right?
Enter the Mooch. In what must be some kind of record, Anthony Scaramucci was removed from his position as the White House communications director, fourteen days before his official start date. His erratic, vulgar and quite frankly aggressive exchange with a reporter has made multiple headlines over the last week, revealing rivalries and tensions among prominent Trump advisors and eventually resulting in his termination before he could even get started.
Unfortunately, in this day and age it’s not difficult for your potential employer and colleagues to find out more about you than what you chose to reveal in an interview, or indeed more than what you would imagine is relevant to your job. Social media accounts and what is shared on them can be misinterpreted and are easily found with a quick Google search. Similarly, it’s a small world we live in and it’s not impossible that an employee in an organisation you’re hoping to join may be familiar with your name and have heard a less-than pleasant story about you from years ago. Conversely, you may be familiar with people in an organisation and a seemingly innocent conversation with a friend about who you know ends up getting back to the wrong people.
Obviously, the average person’s foray into (and subsequent exit from) a new role is not likely to be as dramatic or interesting as Scaramucci’s, or indeed any of the White House staff who have decided recently that the Trump administration is not for them. But there is a lesson to be learned here, and it extends beyond not calling up a reporter and embarking on an expletive-laden and somewhat threatening rant about your White House colleagues without asking for the conversation to be off the record. We don’t live in a vacuum, and people generally aren’t capable of being wholly objective and unbiased when evaluating someone’s ability to perform a role. You might be perfect for a job from the point of view of education, skills and experience but it is difficult to shake someone’s first impression of you, nor is it easy to make your colleagues and employers forget significant mistakes you have made in the past, especially when those mistakes are suggestive of your personality, temperament or professionality. For all we know, Scaramucci may have made an excellent communications director, but his impulsivity and lack of diligence in the wake of his appointment means we will never know, and it is unlikely that this incident will ever not be the first thing that comes to mind whenever his name is mentioned.
It’s not rocket science, but maintaining a professional approach at all times is of the utmost importance. No matter how you feel about your superiors and colleagues, both past and present, keep your opinions of them to yourself and away from social media and people you don’t trust. And if you’re important enough to attract the interest of a reporter, insist that the conversation remains off the record.