Your Career: Dos and Don'ts of Social Media 101

In our ever-connected smartphone driven culture, social media is ubiquitous. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. the rules that govern professional behavior in and out of the office also govern a professional’s behavior when it comes to social media activity. One can be assured that current and future employers are no doubt looking at employees’ social media profiles. Without the benefit of evidence or explanation, the wrong status update, tweet or even an innocuous picture can irreparably hurt one’s career. The sensitivity surrounding the perception that social media activity generates should be front and center to any professional’s mind. A carefully constructed and meticulously curated image and resume can be rendered meaningless following a tasteless tweet or a profile picture that sends the wrong message. While the general rule of thumb that applies here is that if it can in any way hurt you, don’t post it; remember that nuance dictates that some things are more wrong than others. While social media behavior has the downside of hurting one’s career, in some ways it can actually enhance one’s career as well. Let’s look at some of these do’s and don’ts.

  1. DO keep your profile locked down to friends only. Carefully create friend lists to ensure that not every thought that crosses your mind or activity you’re engaging in is being broadcast to the entire world.

  2. DO keep your profile picture professional and clean looking. That doesn’t mean that you need to be in a 3-piece suit (unless that’s truly your thing). Keep it clean and tasteful. This means avoiding showing off your beach body in your profile picture unless, of course, you’re aiming for a career in modeling or as a summer lifeguard.

  3. DON’T post incendiary remarks, thoughts and statuses. Follow the old school rules of conversation: Avoid sex, politics and religion. You don’t really want to provide fodder for employers or colleagues to judge you.

  4. DON’T post comments or remarks that may be considered distasteful. Avoid language that you wouldn’t use in front of your colleagues.

  5. DO use sites like LinkedIn to post research articles or other educational materials that help position you as someone who is inquisitive and curious.

  6. DON’T post offensive statuses about your current or ex employers or bosses. It doesn’t do anyone any good.  It particularly doesn’t make you attractive to prospective employers or colleagues.

  7. DO write recommendations, and endorse colleagues and partners you feel truly deserve the credit (This is specific to LinkedIn). It will help you grow your network.  Further, paying it forward is always a good idea.

  8. DON’T post insider information about your firm. This almost always never goes well. You may not know who from your own circle of connections can pass along your updates to someone else. Avoid starting rumors. When in doubt, check your company’s data privacy and social media policy.

  9. DON’T post during work. You’re being paid to work, not to share your thoughts with the world. The potential downsides are far too many.

  10. DON’T drink and post. This one’s obvious but many a career has been negatively impacted by such behavior.

Social media accounts are to be treated with care. They can be useful tools to enhance an already carefully cultivated career. However, in the wrong hands and without forethought this space can cause serious harm to one’s career.

The golden rule of thumb: Whenever in doubt, don’t post.