March 9, 2010
First Impressions: Three Things to Avoid in Your Online Profile
“Hi I’m Brad! I love topless bars, beer pong and have a rocky, drama filled relationship with my girlfriend.” Not something you’d exactly open a sales call with, but if you aren’t diligent about what you post online, this is what you could be telling potential clients.
With the spread of social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter people have been able to post pictures, updates about their lives and connect with friends. Add blogs and you can easily share your beliefs and opinions with the world on anything you feel like. While all of this might be great for staying connected and expressing yourself, it may be career suicide.
Whether you’re applying for a job or looking to expand your current client base you need to be aware that most people are Internet savvy enough to at least run your name in a Google search to see what comes up. Wouldn’t you research your future boss if you had the chance? With hundreds of millions of people on social networks, your profile is inviting many eyes.
If you don’t properly separate your work and personal lives online, you may run into some embarrassing situations that can put a serious dent in your career. You might be the best at what you do, but if you spent the weekend Tweeting about Tequila shots and partying all weekend, who is going to take you serious as a professional when you return to “office-mode” tweeting on Monday?
Follow these simple steps to insure the social media grenade doesn’t detonate your career.
Clean It Up
If you have profiles on social media sites, blogs or anything else that delves into your private life, then go through them with a fine-tooth comb. Make sure to remove any tidbits you don’t want coworkers or executives to see. If you’re job-hunting, this is especially important. With the economy limiting the number of open jobs, you can give yourself an advantage over others that haven’t cleaned up their online profiles.
Make sure to check out your photos, posts and links you have put out there for anything that may be offensive or might call your professionalism into question. Also, make sure friends who link to you don’t have anything potentially damaging on their pages about you. They represent you and it’s a smaller world than you think!
Yes, you have freedom of speech in this wonderful country but your political, social or religious views may offend some people in the professional environment. If you want to work under their roof, you’ll have to play by their rules. Stay away from controversial topics that may make people not want to work with you.
Obey the Golden Rule of the Internet
Going forward always remember, “Once on the Internet, always on the Internet.” Once that picture of you dancing on the bar is out there, it’s always going to be out there in some form or another. Take this into consideration before posting anything on your pages. The litmus test is to ask yourself, “Would I hire the person in this picture?”
Don’t Forget the Little Things
So you’ve erased that lost weekend to Tijuana from Facebook’s archives but don’t forget about what else you are telling people by your online actions. Constant streams of updates are quite telling if you consider the timestamps that are attached to each message. You’re telling the world that you waste time online all day. Unless that’s part of your job description, keep updates limited to after-work hours or maybe lunch.
The sites you link to or the subjects you discuss could also put off potential employers and clients. Whether it’s fair or not, people will judge you for what you talk about or show interest in. You want coworkers and employees to judge you on your professional merits, not some dumb comment you made online. If you are constantly blogging about celebrity gossip or going on about trivial topics, some people will think less of you. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, but make sure your personality appears at appropriate times.
Pleasure to Meet You
Take the time to groom your online presence just like you do for your “real world” life. You wouldn’t show up to work wearing provocative clothing, showing-off radical tattoos so don’t make your online self do those things either. Take a deep breath, count to ten and think about what you’re telling the world before you hit that submit button.