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Social Media and your Professional Image

It would be hard to find a young professional these days who doesn’t engage in some type of social media interaction. With the advent of Smart Phones and portable Tablets, it’s easier than ever to stay connected to your friends, family, and colleagues. However, it is also very important to remember that the content you put out on the web affects what people think about you both personally and professionally. The last thing you want to do is send the wrong message to a potential employer , or colleague for that matter.

What may come across as cute or funny to your personal circle may come across as rude or distasteful to someone who doesn’t know you as well. How many times have we all seen pictures or Twitter comments pop up after people have made their way into the public eye? Countless beauty queens and politicians have been put on the spot and had to explain their actions due to someone leaking pictures or comments they have made while using social media. Regardless of whether or not you are a new grad or a seasoned professional, it is important to protect your image online. Here are a few tips to help you protect your online image and escape possible scrutiny:

Communicate with your inner circle

All too often we see people at parties snapping embarrassing photos of one another. The last thing you want to have happen is to have these photos resurface later on and damage your credibility. While public officials and celebrities have to worry about people attempting to blackmail and defame them, this is not usually a major concern for us “ordinary” people. If a friend happens to post a photo of you in which you deem to be embarrassing or inappropriate, it is not necessarily because they are out to expose you in a negative light. Perhaps your friend has a different notion of what they deem to be inappropriate, and does not realize how a negative image online can affect your employment prospects. To avoid any possible embarrassment, have a conversation with friends in your inner circle beforehand. Explain to them that preserving your integrity online is important to you and be clear about your expectations. If by chance you have a friend who has already posted photos of you that are not to your liking, have a conversation with them and request that they remove the photos, but try not to approach them in an accusatory manner-simply express your need for a clean, professional image online. If the person is truly a friend, then they will in fact understand your point of view.

Promote Yourself Online

Instead of relying on what others put out there about you, take charge and take matters into your own hands. Are you passionate about the arts, and have a desire to work in Fine Arts? Well, be proactive about it! Go to a gallery opening or a local play. While you’re there, snap a few photos of yourself, or post an update on your Facebook or Twitter account about your evening out. You have the power to control what others know and don’t know about you. It may come as a pleasant surprise to a potential employer that your passion for the arts extends past the classroom. Want to take it a step further? Start a blog, and blog about things you discover pertaining to fine arts. Blogging about a particular genre is a great to create a name for yourself as an expert in your field.

Be selective

There is no rule stating that you must accept every friend or reciprocate following everyone on Twitter. Social media is a voluntary institution, and you have the right to control who you interact with. Becoming friends with the wrong person on Facebook may have dire consequences. A person with whom you do not have a good relationship may take information that belongs to you and use it in a negative light, or possibly create false pieces of information about you. They may also be guilty of stealing information from you that may enhance their personal image. Protect yourself from becoming a victim to people with ulterior motives by engaging only with people you know. It is also a good idea to keep business and personal accounts separate. Employers and colleagues do not want to receive updates that your cat’s kidney surgery went well or that your boyfriend has broken up with you for the third time. When interacting with business contacts keep it professional at all times.

Are you a social media connoisseur? What are some ways that new social media users can protect their images online?