How to be Yourself on Social Media While Staying Professional


by Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, Glassdoor

social mediaIt’s almost necessary to be social media savvy these days, so much so that there seems a frenzy to be seen as the coolest, most down-to-earth, real, caring and/or opinionated person on the Internet.

Because social networking has been lauded as a key to career momentum and growth, individuals are running in droves to the social media forums and rapidly erecting profiles and conversation passages.  Oftentimes, those profiles and successive conversations are rushed, loosely constructed and not very well thought out. As well, in an effort to be ‘authentic,’ social media enthusiasts often weave in personal diatribes and passionate assertions that leave their followers, friends and contacts reeling.

People try so hard to blend social with professional personas that they create chinks in their personal reputation.

Pitfalls and Benefits Arise When Being Authentic on Social Media Networks

Portraying one’s authentic self without a filter is all well and good for you if you are willing to accept the risk that you will offend some and more so, are willing to live with the consequences. For example, are you willing to thwart opportunities to get an interview with or land business from certain connections based on asserting your personal values, religious beliefs, political ideas or even personality quirks? Perhaps, for you, such divisiveness may be desirable, as you seek to attract like-minded people with similar values and cultures with whom to work, do business and simply, with whom to network.

More Conservative Persona May Reel in Wider Audience

Or, perhaps you are more risk averse and want everyone to like you and wish to be able to open doors at virtually any opportunity. You simply want to venture online to present your best, most non-controversial self and cast the widest, most appealing net. In those situations, your profiles and posts should be more conservative and professional and focus on a display of your subject matter expertise.

Perhaps, if your personality lends itself to it, you may even sprinkle in lighthearted posts with the aim of making others happy or to spark a giggle. Some might consider this a benign way of navigating social media, but for you, the return on being safe is having a reputation for being laid back and approachable. Further, to really be a team player, you will add a meaningful comment or two at other folks’ posts or share others’ wisdom to show reciprocity and support.

Bottom-line Key to Achieving Career Momentum Through Social Media

The bottom line key to achieve career momentum through social media–whether you wish to be full on authentic or take a more conformist approach–is thoughtfulness laced with a bit of strategy.

So, even if you are going to splay your personality in its full color for all to see, don’t confuse that with being unfiltered and free for all. Think before you post. If you are creating a new profile for a popular social media site like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest or even for your blog or personal career marketing website, consider your audience’s needs and pain points. Don’t just paint a me-centric picture of yourself and focus in only on what interests you. For example, you may be tempted to broadcast that you “love heavy metal music despite it being at odds with your southern country roots;” that is okay as long as you can weave it into the context of a bigger story that relates to your target audience’s needs.

While not every single thing you post to a social network has to have deep and resounding meaning and connection to your target audience, it would be wise to consider the following as a rule of thumb for a majority of your posts:

Will the story and conversation threads around that story endear you to a potential hiring manager or someone who can network you into their company? Will your story strengthen a connection and lift your career goals? If so, keep it; if not, strike it.


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