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A student I had emailed me to ask about working in the industry-because I have years of experience in it-after they finish school and how their past may affect how an employer will react to them. To paraphrase the email:

"I'm afraid that even though my grades put my at the top of my class that a simple search online about me will have some risky results"

"I used to work in the adult pornography industry and when you look up my name on a google search this becomes VERY apparent."

"If this is an issue how can I talk to an employer about this without eliminating all chances of my gaining the job?"

I want to give them an honest response but I don't want to step over bounds and get in trouble myself. What's the best way to approach this email?

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    I would recommend you to flag the mod to migrate this question to Workplace SE. I think you will have better answers there. – scaaahu Aug 7 '15 at 3:26
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    @scaaahu I disagree. I don't think the OP is asking for advice on what to tell the student, but rather how to frame the advice without getting in trouble with the university. – Johanna Aug 7 '15 at 3:37
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    @Johanna Yes, you have a point. My concern is that how would the OP frame the advice without knowing what would be good advices for the student if he wants to respond to the student. – scaaahu Aug 7 '15 at 3:46
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    Tell the person to post his/her question at StackExchange. – Joel Reyes Noche Aug 7 '15 at 3:50
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    @Johanna: I agree with scaaahu that this would be a better fit at Workplace. A question about what to tell the student would certainly be on topic there. And there is little academic about this question - some non-academic mentor of a younger person could ask the exact same question. – Stephan Kolassa Aug 7 '15 at 6:05
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If you want to be completely safe, I would answer something along the lines of: "This is outside my area of expertise. I recommend that you consult the career center on campus (insert contact information to career center)".

If, however, you want to actually give them advice, I would give it in a very neutral manner, where you could substitute every mention of "adult videos" by "video of student kicking a puppy" (or other potentially career damaging Google result). If you keep it on that very professional, neutral level, it shouldn't get you in trouble (note: I'm not a lawyer). Write your response, and then try the "puppy kicking test". If the email still makes sense, you're probably (again, I'm not a lawyer) safe.

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    Hmm. It sounds like you're concerned about the effect on your own academic standing if you include the word pornography in an email. If that's the case, perhaps it would be a better conversation to have in person. – aparente001 Aug 7 '15 at 2:15
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    @aparente001 No, not exactly. Every conversation that it about sex between a professor and a student could potentially be turned into an accusation of sexual harassment if the professor is not careful with how they word things. A conversation in person is even more dangerous, because there will be no record of what was said. Using the word pornography is fine, but you have to be very, very careful. – Johanna Aug 7 '15 at 2:19
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    If the professor is concerned about protecting him or herself -- would it be helpful to have a third party present for the conversation? Which, by the way, need not touch on anything related to sex at all. The student is asking for advice about how to get a job despite huge amounts of extremely unfavorable google search results. Since it would not be possible to get the embarrassing search results off the internet in this case, for most intellectual jobs the student would be best off going for a name change. – aparente001 Aug 7 '15 at 2:32
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    @aparente001 Having a second person in the room would certainly help. Since the original question is about pornography, it takes a great deal of tact to handle it without talking about sex. That's where the puppy-kicking test comes in. It's also why I would recommend that the conversation is over email. Much easier to censor yourself in writing than during a conversation. – Johanna Aug 7 '15 at 3:06
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    In the current internet climate, kicking a puppy (or a lion or whatnot) is much, much more "unfavorable" than acting in adult entertainment. – Cape Code Aug 7 '15 at 6:11
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You could propose to have a talk in person, rather than respond on the matter by email. In that way you stay away from creating a paper (email) trail that could be turned against you while you are only trying to help.

As indicated in the comment by @aparente001: Have a third person who can be trusted by you and the student present in the meeting (mention that in the email to prevent the student being surprised). Try to be diplomatic in the conversation.

By the way, a practical approach (which you do not need to pass on if you do not agree) is to use (slightly) different name in the application letter and cv, if that is legal in your country. The student can then reveal his/her real name when invited to an interview, and explain the situation.

  • Obviously I support this! Except I don't see any point in revealing the name. Let the student have a stage name and an academic name. (I think a legal change of name would be the clean way to do this; it is not hard to do.) – aparente001 Aug 7 '15 at 17:15
  • @aparente001: of course it is possible for the student to completely change his/her name, but I am not sure that he/she is willing to do so. Anyway, it is his/her choice. The OP can only give advice. – Danny Ruijters Aug 7 '15 at 18:31
  • And we can only advise the adviser! ... Note, people change their legal name all the time; it's not difficult. – aparente001 Aug 8 '15 at 1:30

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