While many of us maintain both business and personal profiles online, we assume that both are separate and distinct from each other. And that somehow, one will not impact the other—or so we hope. But increasingly, employers are actively searching social media to find out more about prospective employees. This means that your online image, even if you think it is “private” or “personal,” could impact your career. Unfortunately, nothing is really private anymore and anything you post online could spread quickly. It is in everyone’s best interest to be more mindful of one’s online image, and follow some basic rules to ensure a positive online persona.
We asked our resource person on business etiquette, Pauli Antoine, for some tips on maintaining a professional image online.
Build your personal brand
Type your name on search engines to see what comes up. From now on, make it your top concern to ensure that when anyone tries to fish information about you online, only the best would show up. Create profiles on professional networking sites. Upload a recent, professional photo. Update your personal information and achievements regularly.
Posing for photos
If prospective employers were to come across photos of you when you were inebriated, it could dampen your employment opportunities. Stay away from activities and venues that encourage impropriety. Do not pose only to tell the photographer not to post your photo. If you have photos intended for your family and friends only, double check your privacy settings.
Standing on a social media soap box to vent your frustration is not a good idea. Your rant can work against you when prospective employers check you out. People could form the wrong impression, and sadly, you won’t be given the chance to correct the impression.
Do not post during business hours
It sends the wrong message that you spend most of your time on social media rather than focus on your work.
Authenticity vs oversharing
You can be still be authentic but not to the point of “oversharing.” Some people might feel uncomfortable with the amount of personal information you share, and you could put yourself in physical danger by revealing too much. The difference between being authentic and oversharing is intention. Before you share anything personal, think about your reasons and ask these two questions: Am I trying to gain public attention or sympathy? Am I trying to relieve myself of stress, guilt or anxiety? Consider what can happen should the information fall in the wrong hands and the regret you might feel afterward. Remember that social media is not a personal diary, online acquaintances are not therapists, and you can still be authentic without sacrificing your privacy.