Personal vs Professional Life – Online

I know, I know, you’ve heard this before: Being on social media means that your personal life is no longer private. But it’s true.

And, while you should make the effort to assure that only your friends can see what you post, that’s easier said than done. Believe me when I say that employers definitely DO check out candidates on the internet.

You should google yourself – or have someone who is not in your social network google you, or get on the social media you use, to see what an employer can see.  

That’s the first step.  The ongoing challenge is to begin to practice censoring yourself a bit.  There are endless stories on the web about how one quick, careless decision (e.g. post, tweet) can lose an opportunity or even your current job. (Search that: “lost their jobs from social media”. Ouch.)

Especially when you are starting out your career and building your reputation, it’s just better to be overly cautious.  This goes double for people in certain careers, which may be more strict or sensitive, like teaching or law enforcement.  Remember that when you are employed (or a student), you are representing that company (or school), even in your personal life.  Kind of like how your actions reflect on your family/parents.    

Also, the smaller or close-knit the town you live in, or the industry you work in, the faster your reputation will spread and the harder it will be to shake. (Future blog post: “Never Burn a Bridge”.)

General rules to abide by:

  • NO EMPLOYER TALK: Never say anything negative about your employer on social media.  There’s a story about a woman who was fired for posting on Facebook saying her job is ‘boring’. Really. To be on the safe side, if you want to post about your job, make sure it’s positive (and nothing confidential, like the actress on Glee who posted info about the season finale and got blacklisted in Hollywood).
  • DON’T POST DURING WORK: If your company has strict rules about social media use, be careful WHEN you post:  A woman was fired for tweeting during a city council meeting when, as a clerk, she was supposed to be typing the minutes of the meeting.
  • NO POLITICS: I know it’s tempting, but avoid expressing your political comments on social media.  First, no one really cares about your political opinions, and second, you only stand to alienate a potential employer.
  • THINK TWICE before you joke about something that could be misconstrued as sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise insensitive.  This could be as simple as posting a picture of yourself in an inappropriate Halloween costume. 
  • G or PG RATED: Be careful about photos of yourself doing something risqué – anything suggestive, naked, illegal, or using controlled substances, even using alcohol or nicotine, could work against you.
  • ENLIST A GUARDIAN ANGEL: Consider assigning a good friend to keep an eye on your social media and call you out when you post something that might be risky, for whatever reason. My friend Anne does this for me pretty regularly and messages me promptly. “Sure you should post that thing about your son’s business?” I know she’s saved my ass a few times. (Thanks, BFF.)
  • DOUBLE CHECK BEFORE POST/SEND: One last thing: If you are going to post/text/email anything that might be truly offensive (or illegal) to someone privately, you better double or triple check that you are REALLY doing that (and make sure you trust that person not to share). I think we’ve ALL at some point accidentally sent something to the wrong person and it didn’t go well. [Story: In fact, just last night I texted something to my boss “Jane” that I meant to text to friend “Jane”. That could’ve been very bad. I immediately changed the former’s contact info in my phone to “Boss Jane”.]

We are not trying to make you paranoid, deter you from social media (hahahaha!) or over-edit yourself. We are just trying to illustrate that you CAN damage your opportunities and your career if you are careless, don’t THINK carefully about what you put out there on the internet, of even if you just hit “send/post” too quickly. This is a critical time in your life when you are building your own personal brand and you want to be thoughtful about how you want to be portrayed and how you might be portraying yourself unwittingly. That’s all. Think about it. Be aware.

Here’s another point on this topic: Past experience and how it influences your future career (This is also applicable to Blog Post #2: “Resume Basics – Content“.) 

When you list your experience on your resume, think about the way you list it that is most helpful and also consider that maybe it is NOT helpful. It doesn’t all have to be relevant, of course.  Sometimes your experience just shows that you took initiative, responsible and learned a few things. 

As an example, I have seen “modeling” on several resumes and LinkedIn profiles.  If you have a lot of this experience, recently, I would list it under experience but be careful how you do it. Modeling teaches a lot of life skills, like how to work in a highly competitive, stressful environment; time management and public relations skills.  

On the other hand, it might be completely irrelevant to the job you are applying for and could work against you or attract the wrong kind of employer. [Story: I worked for a scumbag boss who would bring anyone in for an “informational interview” who had “modeling” listed on her resume.] So, unless this is a career you want to pursue, I would consider carefully.  Remember that you are marketing your brain and skills, not your body.  (Unless you ARE marketing your body or don’t care if someone only wants to talk to you because of it.)

Also, consider the reputation of the company you might have worked for, e.g. “Waitress at Hooters.”  Think about how those things on your resume might influence people looking at your resume in both a positive and negative way and think about how those things might help or hurt you. (In this case, maybe just list that you were a server or hostess at a national American sports bar chain?)

One last thought: If you have two very different work/career options going, consider having two distinct resumes.   If you want a side job in modeling, for example, create a modeling resume (which is an entirely different format).  If you want an internship in accounting because you are studying finance, do a finance resume and leave the modeling off. 

Keep in mind whenever you put something out into the world, that you are building your personal brand, whether you are trying to or not.  (More on Building Your Personal Brand in a future post.)

Personal vs Professional Life – Online – 1 of 2
Personal vs Professional Life – Online – 1 of 2

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