By Heidi Sawyer
With social media platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) growing at an exponential rate, millions of people are making personal information available for the masses to access - many not realizing the potential pitfalls that this could have on a job search, a career or even on one's current employment.
You, like most, may have created social networking profiles to share information with friends and family. But as your network grows, more and more people are gaining the ability to view your information.
Employers Are Watching
In a tight employment market with so many viable candidates at their fingertips, employers are not only taking the time to figure out what skills you bring to the table, but - more importantly - how you may fit into their work culture. One of the easiest ways to determine that is to look at your online profiles.
Whether you intended them to or not, your profiles on these platforms are establishing a personal brand for you, the employee.
Here are some key points to consider before putting your information online:
- Once you put information out on the web, it can be reposted and viewed by virtually anyone. This is particularly true of Twitter, where your posts are permanent and can easily be reposted or "retweeted."
- Ask yourself: "What would mom or dad think? Would they be proud of the image I have created for myself?"
- What are you passionate about, both personally and professionally? These may or may not relate to work, but they could affect your overall image.
- What are other people saying about you on your profile, and how would that translate to a potential boss?
Keeping It Separate
Some other tips to help safeguard your personal information:
- Have separate profiles on these sites. Professional profiles can be rather public; while your personal profiles should be safeguarded through the site's privacy options and you should only connect with people whom you trust.
- Keep professional information away from Facebook. Instead, consider establishing a separate professional profile on sites such as LinkedIn or Plaxo and place your unique URL to your profile or resume for potential employers to visit.
I'm not suggesting that you create a false persona or, on the other hand, a cookie-cutter style profile with almost no information. Instead, think about how you want to be perceived by others.
The Golden Rule
Remember, the golden rule to social media: view your profile as if "your closest friend, best client, and biggest prospect" are the only ones who have access to it. If you let that guiding principle lead the way, you should never have to panic when a current or potential employer says, "I saw your Facebook page..."