Career Lessons from Laremy Tunsil

May 10, 2016

Imagine a scenario where you're so qualified for a job that the nation's leading employers in your field get together to compete for your services. Not only that, but their job offers come with salaries in the millions.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the NFL draft.

As you'll probably be aware if you pay attention to that sort of thing, arguably the year's biggest draft-related story revolved around Laremy Tunsil, who was widely expected to be drafted 6thoverall and rewarded with a contract in the region of some $20.48 million.

But then, shortly before the draft started, a video that appears to show Tunsil smoking marijuana appeared on his own Twitter feed. How exactly it got there remains unknown at the time of writing. What seems more certain is that it had a direct impact on his career prospects: eventually selected 13th in the draft—a drop that many draft-watchers attribute directly to the video—the maximum value of Tunsil's contract had dropped by around $8 million, to $12.46 million.

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of anything to do with the situation, there are a couple of clear messages that anyone can take away from this situation:

1)      Marijuana use is still illegal

Sure, we're seeing decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in locations all over the country. In many places, you won't be arrested for responsibly enjoying pot—or for filming yourself doing so. But the federal laws haven't changed, and it's still legal for employers to refuse to hire you—or to fire you—for indulging in your habit.

2)      The internet can seriously damage your career

For as long as people keep making the mistake, we'll keep pointing it out: in this day and age, your mistakes live forever. Whether it's a regrettable photo or video, or an ill-advised status update, even something that seems like harmless fun can have serious consequences if it's seen by someone you didn't intend on sharing it with. Sure, it probably won't cost you $8 million, but it might be enough to move your resume to the discard pile instead of the one marked "contact for interview." 

I know: none of this is the kind of ground-breaking, innovative stuff you're told will give you the edge in the job market. You won't wow a future employer with tales of how you scrubbed your Twitter profile of all those photos from Burning Man, or how you change your passwords periodically to make sure your accounts are secure (especially if you happened to give them to someone that you later fire). 

But here's the thing: while doing that stuff might not get you the job, not doing it can lead to you being ruled out altogether. So if you're going to take one thing away from Laremy Tumsil's recent misadventures, it's this: if you are going to do things that might be deemed inadvisable, don't put yourself in a position where they can be broadcast to the world at large.

by Phil Stott

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