Avoiding Career Suicide on Social Media

We’ve talked in the past about how hiring professionals can optimally use social media to attract and find the right candidates, and offered some basic advice to accountants for expanding and managing their online presence.

But there’s another, darker side to the Internet that we’re all becoming increasingly familiar with. For while social media has proven an invaluable resource for candidates and employers alike, it also provides a plethora of opportunities—to jobseekers in particular—for committing career suicide. As the “social” in social media increasingly intersects with the professional networking aspects of sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can all too easily succumb to a cycle of shameless self-exposure—at the expense of your career.

But it is possible to use social media for both socializing and work while continuing to wield control over your professional image and job prospects. To strike this balance, you’ll need to do some work, and a bit of damage control. Here’s what to do, and what to avoid.

First things first: Fix your grammar
No matter the industry, a working professional’s ultimate goal on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter is to portray a polished image—to come across as competent, put-together, and successful. This said, your expertise and accomplishments will be undermined if the written content you put forth contains grammatical errors or typos.

Simple mistakes, like writing “your” in place of “you’re,” will not go unnoticed—particularly by the discerning eyes of potential employers or clients.  To put it plainly, it will make you look stupid.

To make sure your profiles, comments, and blog posts are properly spelled and punctuated, consult a professional editor or a word-savvy friend to look them over before promoting yourself all over the worldwide web.

As the “social” in social media increasingly intersects with the professional networking aspects of sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can all too easily succumb to a cycle of shameless self-exposure—at the expense of your career.

Keep your Facebook page on lockdown
Facebook can be especially tricky to navigate. Unlike LinkedIn, it’s commonly used for both social and professional dealings; if you’re not careful, the lines between the two are quickly blurred.

To avoid colleagues, scouts, or prospective employers becoming privy to both the mundane and the more unseemly details of your private life, reserve Facebook for socializing and put your privacy settings on high.

And to evade probing eyes altogether, change your Facebook name so that you’re not searchable—“John Smith” becomes “J-Smo,” for example. This allows you to add people at your own discretion. If you need to have a professional profile on the ‘book, create a separate, tightly controlled profile in which you remain squeaky clean and work-oriented, leaving all the rest to your alias page.

Get a proper headshot
Like it or not, appearances count for a lot, especially in finance. Spend some time—and, unless you’re horribly photogenic and can get away with a friend-taken photo, some money—having several professional headshots taken. Use these for your social media pages and your website. Consult a colleague or friend to help you choose the photos that best flatter you, as well as capturing you at your most professional. That will likely mean donning a suit and having a supremely good hair day.

Avoid personal or controversial comments
Sites like Twitter and LinkedIn are ripe with conversation—and often, controversy. While joining groups and contributing to discussions about your industry are important to building your professional brand on social media, you should always keep your tone polite and light.

Never engage in overly controversial or heavy subjects, and never sink to the level of petty or offensive banter. Quite frankly, you—and your career—won’t be able to live it down.

…you should always be extremely mindful of everything you write, post, and do on these sites, as they will be seen, and potentially used to gauge your competency.

Filter the unflattering
It’ll take some work, but you should never let your professional pages on social media sites lie dormant. Not only should you consistently edit and update your profiles to stay relevant and reflect what’s new—both in your company and industry—you should periodically look through your profiles as an external party would, removing anything that seems untoward, unflattering and outdated.

Always tweet, type, and post with purpose
Again, boosting your professional image on social media means remaining active on these forums. Blogging, posting comments in LinkedIn discussion groups, tweeting, and the like are all great ways to engage with fellows in your sector and to appear an attractive candidate to employers or recruiters.

This being said, you should always be extremely mindful of everything you write, post, and do on these sites, as they will be seen, and potentially used to gauge your competency.

So before you type a comment or paste a link, think about what it is you are trying to achieve, professionally-speaking. Is the content relevant? Could it help improve your image or spark an important discussion within your sector? If not, cut your losses and log off.

At Clarity Recruitment, we certainly support the use of thoughtful, intelligent, and intentional social media use, especially when you’re hoping to get hired, or simply noticed. Just make sure to use the heady power that social media bestows upon all of us wisely. When in doubt, step away from the edge and salvage your career.

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!