The days of keeping your personal and professional lives separate are a thing of the past thanks to social media. The two cannot independently exist without taking drastic measures -- and even then there are risks.
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Social media's (or SoMe) connection to personal and professional branding has been dominating headlines for awhile, and should be a reminder to job seekers in what continues to be a tight job market that they need to keep their online noses clean. Employers are using Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and social media sites to perform preliminary background checks on candidates before they step foot in the door for an interview. For that reason, your SoMe presence can kill the possibilities of landing a job.
The first--and most important--step toward repairing your SoMe identity is cleaning up your act. No one needs their dirty laundry hung out all over the virtual clothes lines for all the world to see. We owe it to ourselves to take a hard look at our online and real-world behavior and make choices that will not have long-term damaging affects on our lives and on our careers. What we do today can cause permanent online damage, similar to an impulsively-purchased bad tattoo. Despite our efforts to get it removed, the evidence of it can linger forever.
For some, this means making changes to how and who with we spend our free time. For others, it means removing as much damaging evidence from online profiles as possible and then vouching to never again post content that is not rated PG. A blocked Facebook profile doesn't mean the information won't somehow leak out. A personal or professional brand is only as good as the reputation behind it, and in the world of YouTube, snapchat and unlimited sites looking for content that sells, we cannot afford to make choices that displays behavior in a very open and public forum that we wouldn't want our families or employers to see.
The parental advice that we heard as children is also applicable to proper SoMe behavior. Use these three principles as a reputation cleanup and the for making professional decisions for the rest of your career.
1. Always look your best. It's not enough to wear nice clothing or make sure your hair is always brushed on the weekdays. You can't just put on a persona Monday through Friday and another on Saturday and Sunday. That in-authenticity will eventually catch up to you.
2. Treat others (and yourself) the way you want to be treated. Take this motto into consideration before posting anything online. Don’t say or post something unflattering or mean-spirited about yourself or others that you will regret later. While that feeling of animosity or bad mood might have faded and be long gone, it lives forever online.
3. Honesty is the best policy. Lying on a resume, online profile or during an interview is especially risky since the web provides an easy platform for digging up and verifying information on others. I’m a big proponent of “fake it ‘til you make it,” but not when it comes to factual information about work history or professional experience. It’s hard to recover from being caught in a lie.