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With the many social networks that are available today, it is important to manage your professional image. How do you portray yourself? What does a potential employer or client see when they Google your name?

Here are three tips on managing your professional image professional:

  1. Facebook status. Don’t use your Facebook status updates to share information about the actions an employer doesn’t need to know about, censor your wall posts and patrol the posts written by others on your own wall. For example, “Getting trashed” is not an appropriate status update.
  2. Facebook photos. While you are not expected to be in a business suit in each photo, use caution when uploading or tagging yourself in pictures. Photos that portray you as immature, inappropriate or unprofessional will impact people’s perceptions on your professional image. Keep watch on the photos your friends upload of you as well.
  3. Facebook apps, fan pages and groups. Some of the applications available on Facebook might be fun, but watch which ones you publish on your wall. Informing people of your results on “What is your stripper name?” might not be the best idea. If you wouldn’t want to discuss it with your company’s CEO or your grandparents, don’t join the group or become a fan.

Some of you might believe that since your profile is set to private, that you will be OK. But, what if your friend works at the company you just applied to? The potential employer could go through your friend to see your profile. In conclusion, think twice before posting to social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.

Managing your image isn’t enough. The next step you should take is to use social networks to enhance your image online. Here are four tips to enhance how potential employers see you:

  1. Share ideas and information. Did you read an interesting article? Did you learn something new today? Write relevant and useful updates often. Also, consider bookmarking great links on Delicious to share with others.
  2. Go beyond just joining networks. The best example to use for this is LinkedIn. How many of you are on LinkedIn? And, how many actually use the features of it? Take full advantage of social networking sites. For example, on LinkedIn you can request recommendations, join groups and answer questions.
  3. Start and maintain a blog. Blogging can display to your leadership and knowledge in public relations. It can help others understand the field and inspire them to take a more active role in developing themselves professionally. Write posts that will showcase your skills, knowledge and ambition and comment on other people’s blogs.
  4. Create an online portfolio. If you are truly serious about your career, an online portfolio can help promote your personal brand to potential employers. In addition to work samples and your resume, your portfolio also could have recommendations.

First impressions are extremely important. Your social networks can have an affect on them, so be cautious and work hard to enhance your professional image online.

7 Comments »

  1. Hey Rachel – great tips and I agree with all of them.

    I’m starting to “edit” my previous online image and be more careful about my future. Do I post blog posts/updates/twitter updates etc. about ME? Yes. But I keep them G-rated and don’t get TOO personal, even though sometimes I’d like to. I also recently deleted all facebook photos of myself that were inappropriate.

    I probably do get a little more personal than most young professionals do on their twitter/blog accounts. But that’s OK with me for now and I certainly don’t think it’s anything that would prevent an employer from hiring me – just showcases my life and my true personality.

    It is something we need to be aware of, though!

  2. Thanks Amber.

    I didn’t mention it, but I also write about myself – just not about everything. There are some parts of my life I keep offline.

    I think our generation is a little more transparent anyway. I think we’re OK as long as we don’t post certain things!

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  6. Excellent guidelines on how to maintain a safe image.

    Facebook is something I choose to keep personal and private, shared only among friends. It’s also private because I can’t be on call to monitor content my friends post 24/7, I’m just too busy. I feel I’ve created enough online and social content elsewhere, though, to offset this in a way. For instance, having a personal blog sharing my day to day interests and then a professional blog with entries on business, PR, marketing, the economy, etc. While I pay special attention to the language and photos I upload to my personal blog, at the same time I’m not afraid to expose a picture or two of me with a cocktail — it doesn’t mean I’m irresponsible or an alcoholic!

    The key is really creating enough content to really own “your Google 10″, which are the first 10 results displaying on the first page of a Google search of your name. Part of the reason I create so much social content, too, is to offset the presence of OTHER people who share my name who show up in a Google search. I don’t want a recruiter making a judgment based on someone who isn’t even me!

  7. Chelsea – I completely understand keeping Facebook private. With it private, you still need to be concerned about having mutual friends with potential employers. I am friends with a alumna who works at a firm that I have recently started working with. If they had wanted to, they could have went to her to see my page. But, at least with it set on private there are less risks.

    And I agree with the cocktail comment. I have photos of me with a glass of wine…but, it’s one glass at a professional meeting. I think appropriateness is definitely a factor when it comes to alcohol.

    Good luck with your “Google 10″! Thanks for the comment.

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About

Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.