What Does Your Interview Suit Look Like? How About Your Personal Brand?

Go into your closet and pull out your best, most professional suit, the suit you would wear to an interview. How does it look? Is it clean, pressed, professional? This is the image you present to a potential employer or important client when you meet in person. Putting on a nice suit says “I take you seriously, take me seriously too.”

Now go and Google yourself. Do you like what you see? Is it the image you want to present to the world? I hope so, because this is what others see. This is your personal brand. Everything counts: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, photos, posts on message boards, comments on blogs, news articles, press releases, etc. If it’s searchable, then it’s findable.

It’s really important to carefully consider everything you post online. I always think, before hitting the submit button, “Is this how I want to present myself?” I consider this when posting on Facebook, even with stringent privacy settings in place. What goes the internet stays on the internet. Anyone with access to your wall has the ability to do a screen shot and send your information out there into cyber space.

Here are some tips in keeping your online presence future-proof.

Think carefully before posting.
I’m Facebook friends with some people who are fine face to face, but on Facebook it seems as if the mask comes off and their true colors show (I can only suppose those are their true colors). The constant complaints, the online fighting and the profanity are constant. It has really given me a different opinion of these people (guess how many of them were moved to the Limited View list). These people are using Facebook to chat with friends, but it is still part of their online presence. If one of them every turned to Facebook to try to find a job, I wouldn’t be willing to help them, because I see how they act online, which is an extension of their offline selves.

Don’t take and post inappropriate photos of yourself.
These photos end careers. Case in point: Anthony Weiner, whose Wikipedia page states “Weiner resigned from Congress due to a sexting scandal, effective June 21, 2011.” These photos don’t belong online. They don’t belong on your cell phone. One moment away from your cell phone, one mistake on your keyboard (such as sending a public instead of private Tweet, as Weiner did), and it’s all over the place. Once it’s out there, there is no getting it back. EVER. Save yourself the humiliation and potential loss of a job, not to mention your reputation, and just don’t do it.

This, by the way, does not include embarrassing high school pictures of yourself, which someone will thoughtfully post around the time of your 15 year reunion. Tagged. Those photos are inevitable (also inevitable: the untagging of said photos).

Don’t participate in questionable material.
My son used to watch the Good Night Show on Sprout when he was younger, and one day a new host appeared. He didn’t seem to notice too much. However, as someone whose television relationships was now limited to mostly children’s TV, I wondered where she went. One Google search later and I discovered that earlier in her career she participated in some PSA spoofs which got her fired from PBS six years later. Whether or not you agree with this action in principle, you have to always consider future ramifications.

Don’t engage in, and then post about, illegal activity.
Really, don’t engage in it at all. But definitely, don’t post about it! In March, a Pittsburgh man stole an engagement ring while staying at a friend’s house and was caught when his newly engaged fiance’ happily posted about it on Facebook, picture of the stolen ring included. Obviously, this is an extreme case, but even gloating about parking in a handicapped parking space could get you in trouble with your current or future employer.

Don’t post when you’re upset.
Step away from the cell phone and keyboard. Give yourself time to cool off. After a few minutes (or hours), if you’re still upset and finding the need to share it, think about it carefully. There are instances where sharing your frustrations online is helpful. Jen Lancaster, a blogger and author I follow, recently felt mislead and taken advantage by a car dealership. She tried working with them but things went south and she felt like her only recourse was to use the Power of Social Media. So she blogged about it. Her fans called and took to the dealership’s Facebook page and shared their thoughts on the matter. The Ford Corporation (this was a locally owned Ford dealership) reached out to Jen and helped right the wrong. (The post has since been removed from the blog and the only part that remains is theresolution.) This was a smart use of social media.

Don’t Bad Mouth People
Jen may have posted about her bad experience, but she was always factual and respectful. She never called them names or used foul language. She stated the facts as she experienced them and asked for a reasonable solution, which she got. She obviously carefully considered whether to post about it, and then how to write it. Don’t call people names or have fights online. Venting about someone you’re in a fight with might seem like a good idea, but it’s not. Even if you’re not using the person’s name, he or she will find out and you could permanently damage your relationship. And none of those vague “Some people should learn to mind their own business” Facebook posts. It gives the impression that you’re not able to deal with problem maturely. Those conversation should stay offline.

Most of these tips are really common sense, but as you can see, not everyone follows them. Many people see their phones, and by proxy the internet, as extensions of themselves. The conversations are really the same as they have always been, the difference is that now they are amplified and permanent, and that’s not always a good thing.

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