Did you recently,
- Apply for a new job?
- Pitch to a new client for securing a contract?
- Apply to volunteer with a humanitarian campaign?
Or simply put, anything professional where you needed to present your best self in hope of getting selected. You left out nothing to impress the decision makers of the final outcome for your professional goal AND you did do your best too. Other candidates seemed not half as strong, yet you didn’t make it to the final cut.
Wait what … you didn’t make it to the cut?
How could that be?
I bet you presented a fantastic Résumé or Professional Portfolio – ready to impress your prospective employer, client or campaign leader. Your references too, were solid and powerful names in the community. Most certainly your sense of style and self-confidence was just breathtaking. Then, what in the world could have gone wrong despite perfect presentation, delivery and impression?
Believe me or not, but chances are high that you entirely forgot the two words that most likely played the role of prime saboteur for your ambitious plan: SOCIAL-MEDIA.
First Reflex: Online Search
Let’s face it, in today’s digitally connected world, the first reflex of your prospective employer/client is to do an Online Search of your name. With today’s search websites making it easier to pick the type of content, in one-click they can switch from Links to Photos to Videos – and learn a lot more about you than you have listed in your impressive Résumé or Professional Portfolio. Not just that, they can easily learn about your family, friends and the wider network you are part of in your professional and personal life. They hunt every aspect of your online presence on the Social-Media. It is debatable, if they should do an online search on your private life, but the fact is – THEY DO.
FACT: They get to learn a lot more about you than you might be willing or comfortable in sharing.
Privacy Settings: Too Technical For You?
There are two most common type of users of Social-Media – (1) Hyperactive and (2) Reluctant.
There sure are many more varieties and degrees of each variety but above two take the cake in how lax we can be about Social-Media privacy settings, irrespective of belonging to any of the two most prominent user-types. While the Hyperactive user will claim they have little to hide, the Reluctant species will allege, they hardly use Social-Media and rarely ever post anything to be worried about. Yet, both of them are the worst culprits of being slack with the privacy settings of the website/App they are using – opening wide the doors of personal information to the employers, clients, heck – even dating and matrimonial prospects to find out almost everything about them, that is there or not there and can help in decision-making about their real prospects of making it to the cut or being shunted away without an understanding of what went wrong.
FACT: Hyper or Under, if you are a user of Social-Media, there will be something about you that is public.
Invasion Party – The Third-Party Kind
Today, every website you browse, every newspaper, magazine or blog you read Online – offers you ‘Quick-Signup’ using Facebook/Twitter/Google/LinkedIn or other Social-Media logins. Some in-fact, now make it mandatory to use one of these to login, in order to post a comment or share their content in your network. And then there are surveys, contests and competitions that tempt you to participate for a prize, but, you must use one of your Social-Media profiles to participate and do-away with your personal information on these networks and the networks affiliated to them. Either way, the ‘decision-maker’ will be able to find something about you that you did not even think they are going to look at, which is taking a crucial role in their decision-making.
FACT: You’d have to be fairly disconnected person from Social-Media to have absolute Online anonymity.
Career Advisor Solution: Separate Online Lives
Many career advisors will tell you to create separate accounts where you can keep your personal and professional lives away, and remarkably different from each other. They’ll recommend that you only post very positive, constructive, professional content in ‘Professional Profile’ of yours and keep the casual and other content, that can be deemed controversial or can act as an adversary for your ambitions, in your ‘Personal Profile’ which MUST have strictly private settings. I will point out two main contentions here –
- Even though your ‘Personal Profile’ may have strict privacy settings, it is highly likely that some of your information will still be visible through the ‘Invasion-Party’ or ‘Privacy-Settings’ backdoors I discussed above.
- It is very likely, when searching – both of your profiles will show up in the search-results. Only difference will be, that one shows with almost no content. This will still raise suspicion in the ‘investigating’ mind, ‘why does this person have two profiles, what are they hiding?’ and your application will find itself in the trash bin.
Besides, why would you want to lead a double-life? As you know too well, more you hide and lie, more you are likely to forget what you are hiding or lied about. You are going to create a mess for yourself. Let me repeat my question – Why would you want to lead a double-life, even if just Online?
FACT: A very impractical solution, that is going to get in you trouble sooner or later, more likely than not.
Let’s Fix This: Together and NOW
How about a solution that keeps things as simple as they can be, yet doesn’t require you to lead a double life or keep wondering what the prospective employer/client may have seen that led to them refusing you the opportunity that seemed like locked-in contract? After all, both you and the decision-maker know that your Résumé/Portfolio tells them what you want them to know and your Social-Media presence tells them what they’d like to learn about you – more candid, unfiltered and honest.
Here are a few important tips that have continued to help my clients, (both individuals and businesses) since the advent of Social-Media to reflect positively in their professional ambitions–
- Privacy Settings: First and foremost, take just five minutes to learn about the privacy settings of the Social-Media network you are using. Use these settings, they are there for YOU. Once you have set them smartly, you can relax and use Social-Media to your heart’s content, almost. Remember the old adage, ‘Better safe than sorry!’
- Think, Review, Post: It is really commonsense but most of us overlook it in the heat of the moment. My advice, when you ARE in the heat of the moment, take a breath, think, type, review, review again, ask yourself ‘who is going to see this?’ and ‘Who should NOT see this?’ – Then decide if you really want to post and also select your audience accordingly.(see next point)
- Gauge your audience: Think about the culture of the variety of your audience – personal and professional. Their tolerance levels, understanding and acceptance of your lifestyle and activities.
- Friending matters: Who are you adding to your network, what they can see, who else can see through them and if things go sour, how could they react?
- Bad-Cousin case: Then there are people in our lives who act like what I call ‘Bad-Cousin’ case. They’ll take you in confidence, but the moment you are away, they can’t digest their food unless they have gossiped about what they know. Their sole existence has one aim – create drama. You’ll find a cousin or two like this in personal and professional life. If you don’t like to socialize with a ‘Bad-Cousin’ in real life, why would you want them in your Social-Media connections?
- First-Date Content: When you are posting something, anything publicly, think of it as if you are on your first date and what you say, how you dress, what you do – WILL impact the outcome of the first-date. This will often help you stop yourself from posting publicly embarrassing content that can come to bite-back in the … eh!
- Tag-With-Care: Before you tag anyone, reach out to them in private and ask if it is okay. Like you, they might not want their professional network to know of their night out or costume-selfies.
- Enable Tag-Review: Similarly, enable review of tags that others might include you in. Approve what’s safe, remove yourself from what is unsafe. Politely discuss with them about future tagging.
- Grand-Parent Check: When posting publicly, post as if your grandparents are sitting with you while watching a movie about your life. Now think, the scenes that you’d rather they never see. If they shouldn’t see it, so shouldn’t public. It’s that simple.
- Once published, forever public: Once you post something publicly, even though you might realize your mistake and remove it in a few moments – IT IS still out there, before you hide, many will see it. Someone may copy it, republish it. It can come to bite back.
If you look at it carefully, what I really am saying repeatedly is – THINK BEFORE YOU POST CONTENT IN PUBLIC ARENA.