As a business professional operating in a digitally-driven world, you need to actively manage your image and privacy when posting and engaging online. Having an online presence is like hosting an ongoing, open-invitation dinner party—you don’t know who’s going to show up and when; but when they do, will your house be clean with dinner on the table, or will you be hanging around in your underwear?
Unless you’re nearing retirement, there’s a good chance you’ll be looking for employment at least once more throughout your career. When you do, according to a 2017 CareerBuilder study, there’s a 70% chance (likely higher in 2021 based on past trends) your potential employer is going to Google your name and look through your social media accounts before even letting you know they’re interested in speaking with you. Outside of employment, trainers and coaches operating independently are now vetted by potential clients via their online presence.
Your online presence has become your living resume. It’s a visual timeline of your character and personality; it’s a written testament of your values and opinions; and a historical record of your personal and professional endeavors.
Here are three things to consider when it comes to managing your online presence:
1. Do you keep your personal and business-related content separate?
If not, it’s something you should consider. Depending on your career goals, the type of people you work with, and the clients you attract, you may want to consider having two identities online—one that’s personal and private, and another that’s public for business-related content.
This makes it easy to keep your professional image separate from your personal life. Your future colleagues should learn about who you are and the experiences you’ve had over time, directly from you. Not from pictures they see and comments they read online without any context or understanding of who you are.
2. How do you engage in conversations, especially disagreements, online?
The beauty of the communities you belong to online lies in your ability to interact with whoever, wherever, and whenever. But there are two sides to every coin. That convenience and simplicity are also what makes it all too easy to share hasty viewpoints, hurtful opinions, and emotionally-charged reactions. Things you’d never consider saying to someone’s face.
A general rule when interacting online is to praise publicly and criticize privately. The exception to this rule is when you believe others in your field can benefit from witnessing the disagreement. If this is the case, always be respectful of the person, use kind language, and know when your comments are contributing value versus adding to the noise.
3. Is the content you’re posting and thoughts you’re sharing showcasing your intellect and contributing to your professional field?
The advantage of having an online presence is exposure to potential clients, collaborators, and employers. It’s the easiest way for you to showcase your knowledge, highlight your career accomplishments, and share your ideas about the forward progress of your professional field.
With great power comes great responsibility. If you want to make a positive and lasting impression, have standards to dictate what type of content you post and how you comment and interact with others. If it’s not helping, it’s hurting. Each time you’re going to post, ask yourself: “How can I use this to show what I know or what I’m working on?” Each time you’re about to comment, ask yourself: “How can I demonstrate my professionalism?”
If you’re using your online presence to do business, you need to be monitoring your content, commentary, and who you associate with, with the same rigor you do in your physical life. Your online presence is your living resume. What does yours say?