Why You Should Protect Your Online Image (and How To Do It)

By Staff Writer Published on August 16, 2017

You’ve been working hard to secure a job in your desired industry, maybe even your dream job. Life is great—you’ve earned this. You do your job and produce excellent results, and keep things professional in the workplace. Certainly what happens in your personal time stays there, right? Wrong.

With the introduction of social media platforms, these days, many people seem to think they have their own personal very public diary on which to share their deepest thoughts and most upsetting frustrations. Sure, professionalism in the workplace is important, but do you realize how much your online presence can affect what happens to you in the workplace?

A 2017 survey conducted by CareerBuilder shows that “70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring”—70 percent. In fact, 30 percent of employers have someone specifically dedicated to researching potential employees to verify their qualifications and check that their online persona is professional, with 37 percent of those going so far as to check what other people are saying about these potential employees on social media. So their main job is essentially digging up the dirt on you via social media. Let that sink in.

Whether you’re looking for a job or hoping to maintain the one you already have, here are some important dos and don’ts you need to keep in mind before you share that next Tweet or update your status on social media.

Things to Avoid

No matter how secure your privacy settings, social media is not nearly as secure as you may think, a fact that may come as a shock to some. If you are serious about becoming a working professional, you need to keep this in mind and make sure you’re using social media to cultivate your own personal brand, not share photos of your weekend escapades.

1. Ditch the Negative Work Talk

Regardless of how separate you keep your work and personal life, going on a rant on social media about how you hate your job is a horrible idea—these platforms have a pesky way of connecting everyone so much, even if you’re not friends with your employer or co-workers, chances are someone you know is, and your secret rant won’t stay secret long. Bashing your current or previous workplace won’t bode well with a potential future employer who can easily see your potential for loyalty.

2. Keep the Inappropriate Pictures on the Fridge

While it may sound like a good idea to post that picture of you scantily clad at the beach or the video of you performing that epic keg stand, it’s an even better idea not to. When given the choice between a person who makes it clear they like to party, and someone who maintains a professional persona both in and out of work, the professional one will win out every time.

3. Watch How Much Time You Spend Online

Do you find yourself opening social media periodically during the day when your mind wanders from the tasks you should be doing? Employers can keep track of that and 28 percent report they’ve fired employees for using the Internet for non-work-related reasons.

What To Do

While there are many disadvantages to living such a public life on social media, you can actually work your online presence to your advantage.

1. Know Who You Are

This is important for more than just social media reasons—knowing who you are allows you to establish and build your own brand, something that future employers look for. Are you someone who clearly knows what they want and what they’re worth? Or are you someone floating through life without direction? Having direction is essential.

2. Establish a Presence

Take the time to cultivate not only your brand but your presence online. Forty-four percent of employers have reportedly discovered content and information on a potential candidate’s social media profile that ultimately led them to hire that person. Use this platform to your advantage as a way to prove your professional skills, including excellent communication, creativity, and a positive, professional image.

3. Think of Yourself as a Business

Whether you’re continuing to seek employment, or have secured the job you’ve always wanted, always remain vigilant in maintaining your social media profile—51 percent of employers say they continue to keep tabs on current employees on social media, and 34 percent say they’ve found online content that’s resulted in an employee being reprimanded or fired. So even when you have the job, consider avoiding posting those risqué pictures or going on that epic rant.

Be Your Best Self

While there are some people who want a career in the clubbing industry or a future in politics that can benefit from drunk pictures and political rants, for most of us, that’s not the case. And who wants to be fired over something so petty?