Technology has changed our lives, in many ways for the better. Unfortunately, technology has also blurred the lines between our work and personal lives. We can respond to emails 24/7 and take conference calls any time via the bluetooth technology in our cars. I was at breakfast with a colleague last week and we started talking about the difference in work/life balance between our parent's generation and ours. Today, companies emphasize the importance of work/life balance while simultaneously providing the means, and thus the expectation, to be connected 24/7. Thirty years ago, before the advent of laptops and smartphones, going home at night meant emails waited until the next morning and a golf outing with friends on a Saturday morning meant you physically could not join a conference call at the same time. Expectations about responsiveness were different because of this. Additionally, the lack of technology and social media also provided a level of anonymity. Pictures from Saturday night might be printed, but not posted online for the world to see.
Try as we might to achieve work/life balance, our online persona and social media accounts are ignorant to this phenomenon. Whether you are looking for a job right now or gainfully employed, at some point your current or future employer will search the internet to find out who you really are outside of the interview process. What they find, good or bad, will impact your career. If you use any social media or are active online, it's a great time to polish your online presence to reflect a professional image.
Step 1: Take an inventory. Write down every account, application, and method you engage online. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tinder, commenting on articles, blogging, etc. Look through the content on each account from the perspective of your boss or a professional you know. Then look through the content as if it was published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Delete everything that gives you anxiety from this exercise.
Step 2: Set your privacy settings as high as possible on personal accounts. An easy way to stay out of trouble with social media is to separate your personal and professional accounts. If you have an account for personal reasons, like Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram, your network should only include personal friends whom you trust. Blogs should either be written with the intent that everyone you work with might read it or set up as "invite only" for readers. If you set your account up to be private, colleagues will not be able to view your profile or add you to their network (nor do you want them to).
Step 3: Update your professional accounts. If you use LinkedIn or write a public blog, use these to your advantage! LinkedIn is a great networking tool as well as a place to highlight your education, experience, and accomplishments, so keep your account up-to-date and aligned with your resume. I also enjoy reading blogs of people I am coaching or interviewing to see how they articulate themselves via the written word or through photography. I've seen many impressive blogs about a variety of topics; cooking adventures of a college student and spotlights about the unique areas of a small college town.
Once you've polished up your online persona, make sure to monitor your activity and that of your friends to maintain your professional persona.
Check your social media accounts daily. While you might not be posting anything unprofessional, you never know what your friends are posting on your account. Whether it's a picture from Saturday night that they tag you in or a comment on your Instagram, monitor your accounts and delete anything added by someone else that doesn't represent you well.
Don't log in to social media from your work computer. Kind of an obvious statement, but I've seen enough people logging in to personal social media accounts from a work computer to add this warning. It looks bad if someone sees you on Facebook during the day and you really do not want a record of personal browsing on your work computer. Use a smartphone, tablet, or personal computer.
Remember...the internet never forgets, even if you do. If you wouldn't want it on the cover of the Wall Street Journal, don't post it, text it, like it, or tweet it. Before you put anything out on the internet, even if you are just "liking" a picture, imagine that the action was featured on the Wall Street Journal. Would you still proceed?