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Social and Professional Are Not the Same Thing

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Facebook thumbnailAs social media can sometimes stray into personal branding, there seem to be increasing amounts of people who add not just their friends to their contact lists, but also work colleagues, clients, and bosses. This can be problematic, and in some cases, a very bad idea.

On the one hand, it’s understandable that individuals may want to highlight their professional triumphs while still staying in contact with their social circle. That’s all very well; the trouble starts when their social life begins to impinge on their professional life. It could be that there are some pictures of a drunken day out when you are “at home with flu,” or you could have been spotted making disparaging remarks about your company’s latest product. The number of ways in which you could compromise yourself are legion. And they could get you sacked. This, for instance, is the detail of the image above:

facebookfail

Not very clever.

So, how to handle this potential problem? The most drastic course of action would be to avoid having any contacts from your professional life on your friends list. Ever.  If you’re anything like me, however, this is difficult to manage, as a greater number of work opportunities are appearing on social media sites, and the social web is also a great place to network with likeminded professionals and swap information.

Alternatively, you could mix up your professional and casual lives in one account, but you would have to police it rigorously to avoid embarassment. No submitting joining any groups that might affect your work now or in the future, erasing all of the pictures of your weekend bucket bong, and being as polite as possible in all your comments. This could get not only stressful, or incredibly boring. While you might please your professional contacts, your friends might wonder why the raging party animal they know and love seems so timid and out of sorts online.

What I have found works best for me is to have a completly separate online identity for work. I call it the mullet strategy: business in front, party at the back. Unless you are a friend who knows me personally, there is no way of tracking any of my casual social media from my professional accounts. This means separate email and logins for all the websites I use on a regular basis, and never the twain shall meet. There is nothing to prevent me having cordial, informal relations with people I work with, but the last thing I want is to inadvertently give them information that could later be used against me.

Naturally, you have to do what works for you. But as the professional world gets used to Googling your name before asking you in for an interview, and checking your social media profiles to monitor your behaviour, do you really want to leave yourself open to the extent that you forget that your boss is on your contact list? Being seen as friendly may not be worth the risk.

[Images via PassiveAggressiveNotes]

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