Your presence online: how it can affect your career prospects for better or worse


11 April 2016

online presence and social media profiles

Today it is virtually impossible for your name to not show up in search engine results, even if you avoid social media, so it is important to consider how you appear online. Is it best to spend your time trying to remove all references to yourself? Should you work on fine-tuning what is already public? Or should you seek to expand your presence and appear in as many places as possible?

Internet privacy has been a contentious issue of late, and it is right to be wary about revealing too much personal information online. However, the lack of a profile online may have negative connotations, as it could suggest a lack of awareness of online tools and platforms, or indifference towards the ever-growing importance of online media. So, how do you find a happy medium? Unless you work in digital marketing, or are the owner of a brand that you wish to promote, you shouldn’t feel obliged to open accounts with every social media network, create a blog or website, join forums, and upload videos of yourself, but if you are currently working, or are looking for work, you should at least consider creating a LinkedIn profile, if you don’t have one already.

 

Public vs. private

 

Facebook is a platform for social networking with friends and family, or for promoting a particular brand or product. LinkedIn is a platform for professional networking with colleagues, industry contacts, and prospective employers. Make sure you keep that division clear. Twitter can fall into both categories, so you will need to decide whether you are going to use your account for personal or professional purposes. Wherever you choose to have profiles, you need to think about what is made public and what is kept private. Public profiles can be viewed by prospective employers, and opinions about what is acceptable vary, so be careful what you say, and what photos you display.

No one should make a judgment on your personality or abilities solely based on a comment you made on Twitter, or your Facebook profile photo, but it’s human nature that we begin to form opinions of people from the way they present themselves and the things they say. In a competitive jobs market and in the age of social media, it is advisable for all job-hunters to check how they appear online, because it is likely that employers will be doing exactly that with prospective employees.

 

What you say

 

We probably don’t need to tell you that a public Twitter feed littered with expletives or controversial comments won’t do you any favours. Some may be of the opinion that this is simply demonstrating your right to freedom of speech, even if that does include offensive language or questionable opinions. Unless you’re planning on a career as a stand-up comedian, you are taking a huge risk, as most employers will not want to be associated with such a public profile. Employers may check your social media presence during the recruitment process, but they may also do this for current employees, who could face disciplinary action if that presence is not agreeable.

It is possible to have your own opinions and express yourself without sounding confrontational or derisive. Don’t feel you have to silence yourself online, just think before you speak, especially if you are commenting on sensitive or contentious subjects. Think about the positive and negative connotations of what you say online. What is not offensive or controversial to you, may be offensive or shocking to others.

Try thinking about how you want to be seen, and the image of yourself you want to convey. Do you express your views stridently on Twitter because you want to be seen as a confident, strong and smart person? If so, then keep your comments, fair, rational, polite and considered. Ranting and arguing will only make you appear impulsive and antagonistic.

And, while this may seem obvious, as it does still happen we’ll mention it again — never use your social media profiles to shout about how much you hate your boss or your job!

 

What you look like

 

The idiom ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ has renewed relevancy in the age of online social media. Just one inappropriate photo of yourself displayed publicly online could hamper your chances of getting the job you want, and you may never be made aware of it by the agencies or employers you contact.

A public profile photo of you swigging cocktails with your friends on a sunny beach holiday may seem like a fun reminder of a good time had, but would your employer think the same? While it isn’t necessarily offensive to be dressed in a bikini on a beach, and it may not be against the law for you to drink alcohol, an image of you skimpily dressed and drunk probably won’t match up with how your employer would like his staff to present themselves to clients.

As recruiters, we are constantly surprised by certain choices for LinkedIn profile photos. We’re not saying that you must wear your work uniform and pay for a professional photo, but it is really not a good idea to use a photo that tends towards the risqué, or a holiday snapshot of you somewhere in the distance amongst a crowd of people. Use a headshot against a plain background, and look presentable and approachable.

Have you got your own YouTube channel? Setting up a video channel isn’t necessarily harmful, depending on the content. If your job involves having an in-depth knowledge of skincare products and the beauty industry, then your video reviews of beauty products are unlikely to do you any harm. In fact, if done well, they could demonstrate extra skills and knowledge that aren’t conveyed on your CV.

If you film yourself singing your heart out to Beyoncé, you’re unlikely to be convening a company’s social media policy, but do remember that you may be opening yourself up for comment, and that may be positive or negative. Are you really the next Adele, about to be signed to a major record label, or are you more likely to be the next clinic manager of a reputable aesthetics practice? We’re not trying to ruin your dreams, or suggest that you can’t have a pastime, but think about how ‘professional’ you look before posting that video.

 

Cleaning up and making it positive

 

Cleaning up your online presence for the purposes of job-hunting may seem rather dull, but it is worth it. If you want to share personal images and comments with friends and family on social media, you still can, without having to showcase them publicly. Check all of your privacy settings to ensure that personal information is not displayed publicly, and remove anything that you think may cause offence. Build up your LinkedIn profile so it is an online CV, complete with all of your major achievements, and a professional profile photo. Clean it up, and make it positive so you can effectively market yourself. Get noticed for the right reasons.

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