By Kimberly Sarmiento, CPRW
Career Services International
Today’s job seekers are advised that social media sites and on-line networking are valuable tools for professional advancement. But much like a poorly written cover letter or résumé can do more harm than good, a badly managed on-line presence can hurt you professionally. How do you optimize your chances at success in the new virtual business world?
First of all, blend the social you and the professional you with great caution. LinkedIn now features sections where you can link your Facebook and Twitter account to your profile. While many seem to think this is a great way to show your personality to a potential employer, I would advice against connecting your LinkedIn profile to a site you use to express yourself freely.
Even if you don’t have drunken debauchery filled weekends where pictures of you could arise, there are plenty of thoughts, comments, and interests your boss does not need to know about you. If you want to keep these spaces free for your personal expression, do not connect them to a professional site.
You should also be aware that even if you do not connect your Facebook or MySpace account to your LinkedIn profile, your employer could still search for you. Therefore, you should check your privacy settings. While your LinkedIn settings should be set for the most open access, your personal websites should not. Make sure whatever an employer can access when they search for your name will depict you in a professional, positive light.
One suggestion to mitigate these concerns might be to create a second Facebook or MySpace account for professional, semi-casual contacts. If that is the case, manage your friends list well and make sure no one on it would tag you in a Spring Break photo from 1988 that you swore you burned the negatives of years ago.
When it comes to connecting a Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile, make sure your tweets are professional and well, very non-confrontational. If it isn’t proper to discuss a topic at your office, it probably isn’t a good idea to tweet about it.
You probably already realize it’s a bad idea to tweet about the hot waitress serving you lunch. But also know you might want to avoid tweeting about strong dislike of people who belong to certain religious or political affiliations or your opinion about controversial subjects. Yes, this is the land of free speech but that doesn’t mean speech is consequence free. While your employer can’t really fire you for having an opinion he or she disagrees with, there are many grey areas of employment and promotions where revealing your belief that marijuana and prostitution should be legalized might not favor you.
Finally, realize that any tweeting, blogging, or general commenting you do about your company on-line could violate company policies. Make sure you are not giving your employer legitimate grounds for dismissing you by reviewing your company handbook. When in doubt, leave out numbers, specifics, or any other information which could be considered confidential.
While the digital age is fantastic, one thing old fashion forms of communication afforded you was the chance to think twice. You might write the letter – but you had the chance to throw it away before you mailed it! Remember that what you put on-line in an instant can be accessed by the wrong person before you have the opportunity to remove it.
By constantly considering what you put on the Internet from the point of view of a hiring authority, you can make your on-line presence a boost to your career rather than a stumbling block.
Dhuffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services/Career Services International