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Protecting Your Professional Image in the 21st Century

Protecting Your Professional Image in the 21st Century

We all know how important image is to a job search. It’s crucial. This is why we wear a nice suit and print our resumes on thick paper. It’s all about image. And yet, sometimes job seekers fail to remember the image that they are presenting on the internet.

Be careful about what you Tweet!
Pictures and statements of wild parties, drinking or just a friends’ night out on the town may seem fun and innocuous, but they may cost you your next job. More and more articles are appearing citing examples of people whose social networking profiles (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc) are causing them to be passed over for job opportunities. A recent study in Time Magazine cited that 70% of HR professionals claim they have passed over a job candidate because of their internet profile. These sites are checked by a growing number of firms and you must be mindful of your public image. None of these are truly private. Most of us have found friends or colleagues’ profiles who were supposed to be “private”. Be mindful of how you present yourself.

Would you “friend” your boss on Facebook?
It’s worth noting that this is not limited to job seekers. Many of us have had a co-worker or boss ask to “friend” us on Facebook. This is a potential minefield. What are your options? Tell them “no” and risk causing an issue? Tell them yes and insist all of your friends keep comments “professional”? (I don’t know about you, but I would worry about what my friends would post if I suggested this!) You could ignore the request..until they ask you about it face-to-face at work

So what’s the solution?
These are the image struggles of the 21st century and they are very real to each of us. The easiest solutions are to stay off of social networking sites or keep them “professional” in content or appearance. But seeing how this is not a realistic option for many, I would suggest that at the very least, you “clean up” your site, remove comments you have made that could reflect poorly, and change out the pictures on your site to make them a bit more conservative until you have started your new job.

I would strongly encourage you to objectively review any of your social networking sites (I am confident your professional networking sites like LinkedIn are already “professional”). If there is anything you would not want your employer, prospective employer, co-workers or your grandmother to see, remove it. If you can’t/won’t/don’t want to do this, you should ensure your accounts are set to the most private settings possible; this will help prevent unwanted visitors to your profile.

The 21st century is full of electronic marvels; just don’t let them interfere with your 21st century career.

1 Comment

  1. Christopher Dieni on February 26, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    What’s interesting is that by merely commenting on this post, as I’m doing right now, I’m opening myself up to search results. Anyone Googling “Christopher Dieni” after I post this will be able to pull up this search result here. So if I were to say something askew within this post (I’m obviously just playing devil’s advocate here), even that would be visible. It’s not just Twitter and Facebook, it’s everything!

    The question is, how do you balance the “proper” use of social media- making yourself seem engaging and outgoing, while minimizing the risk of a negative perception? It’s indisputable that, Twitter, for instance, is a very powerful tool- how far does one need to restrain one’s self on what they Tweet? For example, I like to Tweet about a lot of science and academia-related news, but recently I’ve also been tweeting about Olympic hockey (being Canadian helps!). Can I control whether people seeing my science tweets and then my hockey tweets would perceive me as being frivolous, or a smart but fun and well-rounded person? I think for some things, perception is a huge variable.

    It’s a very interesting debate! Thanks for writing this Travis.
    – Chris

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