Managing Your Image on Social Media


I enjoy social media and sharing important milestones, achievements and events with family and friends, but for the life of me I do not understand why people use it to digitally share every aspect of their lives. I was raised to value privacy and discretion and lack the self-absorption or vanity to believe that people care about the trivialities of my life. Yet, many are possessed of a misplaced, pathological need for sharing that seems to compensate for, and perhaps fill, an empty void.

Instead of embracing and enjoying life, people are choosing to be their own voyeurs as they incessantly view their own experiences from afar. The new “me” generation values “selfies” over photos of family and friends.

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Communications, including or especially social media, is predicated on information management and posting inappropriately shows a person lacks the ability.

Why does this all matter? Because your use of social media can have a significant negative impact on your career. Employers search the web, view your postings and draw conclusions about you. While I have never read or heard about cases where individuals secured jobs because of their online presence I know of numerous cases where people have lost opportunities because of it.

Your pictures, comments and online persona indicate how you intentionally choose to present yourself to the world. If your presence is full of partying, late nights, inappropriate comments and alcohol you are doing yourself a disservice. You are much better off maintaining a subdued and professional presence and choosing to keep your personal life private.

These tips will help you make image management choices.

Always remember that what goes online may never go away. It may be there for eternity or at least feel that way. So be very careful and thoughtful in what you share. Something that appears cool at 2:00 a.m. very likely will not play well to a recruiter.

Regularly Google your name. This will provide you with the information an employer is likely to see about you. If there is something that you do not believe presents you in the best light be sure to remove it.

Ensure the accuracy of your online data. Last week I received a resume from a candidate who was a good fit for a recruiting position. Following my protocol, I reviewed her LinkedIn page. The page had different graduation dates for her education than what appeared on her resume. I chose to pass on the candidate because either she was trying to intentionally mislead or, more likely, she was sloppy and lacked attention to critical details; neither is a coveted trait.

On professional sites such as LinkedIn make sure that you have a professional head shot. It makes a much better impression than a “selfie” at the beach.

Never post any alcohol- or drug-related comments or images. Rare is the employer who will view controlled substances positively. Also, do not post sexually explicit comments or photos. These show a lack of discretion and poor decision making.

Limit your online content to what the world needs to know. Telling too much about yourself indicates a lack of judgment and/or concern for perception.

Abraham Lincoln said, prior to the age of technology, it is “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Thus it is with social media, where it is better to limit your use rather than to remove all doubt.

Finally, know your followers and friends. Years ago I worked with an analyst who called in sick on a Monday and Tuesday saying she was running a fever. In reality the only fever she had was the heat on Miami Beach, where she was vacationing. The company found out because several coworkers who she was connected to online told management about her ruse. She was fired the day she returned and learned the hard lessons that online friends do not equate to “real” friends who’d have your back when you play hooky.

Social media should be used very judiciously to present a balanced, well-adjusted image and I hope these tips will help you do that.