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It’s the classic post-college job hunting question: If you’re applying for a gig and you happen to have a few public Facebook photos of yourself sipping on a jigger of Jack or a couple o’ Cosmos, do you remove them before submitting your résumé?
The answer depends on where you stand on an emerging workplace dynamic: the online meshing of our personal and business lives, for everyone to see. I’m not talking about LinkedIn, the “professional Facebook” that many workers already have. I’m talking about LinkedIn users opening highly social Facebook accounts and connecting with colleagues in their work and play lives.
And, I must say, there’s something strangely captivating about sitting in a serious conference room with a couple of guys in suits, crunching the hard numbers, discussing the Johnston File, and then hours later seeing photos of those same people on Facebook making snow angels with their kids, giddy and red-teethed at a winery, or donning Mickey Mouse ears and slightly too-short shorts.
What a difference a few years make. It seems like just last month that simply having some hanging out pics could keep you from a job interview. These days, HR employees likely have Facebook pages of their own.
If you’re one of the few who haven’t yet opened a Facebook page, get on it, and don’t be afraid to show your true life, friends or family. Start using Twitter, and you’ll be on the front end of a growing trend.
“It’s really becoming another place where you can do meaningful business, but in a slightly less formal way,” Jon Newman says of Facebook, Twitter and the like. Newman, a partner at Richmond public-relations shop The Hodges Partnership, is one of the more active Richmond users of online networks for business and personal development.
One minute, you’ll find the 47-year-old (48 on April 10, per Facebook) “Twittering” or blogging about the future of his industry on a national and local level; the next, he’s delving into his deeply religious faith of Bruce Springsteen or uploading photos of his kids to Facebook.
Combining your business and personal lives does, however, require a common sense approach. You shouldn’t be afraid to express your true personality online, but there’s a glaring difference between a picture of you holding a Jack or Cosmo and one of you drinking that Jack or Cosmo off the belly of someone at a tiki bar.
Stacey Ricks, the public relations director at Comfort Zone Camp, began using Facebook a few years ago as a way to stay in touch with her Sunday School class and family members. And not that she’s a party animal, but her close friends are not her Facebook friends because she doesn’t want photographs of her at social gatherings in front of her church and business colleagues. “I am a little funny about it,” she says of sharing her whole life online.
But Stacey, don’t you know you can alter your profile for different people, or entire groups of people, to flush out what you don’t want others to see?
“I’m still trying to figure all that out,” she says, chuckling and perhaps not wanting to admit that I’m correct. “I’ll have to sit down with you one day and you show me.” Yet even Ricks admits that social networking tools are incredibly powerful.
If used properly, social media – oh, do I hate that term – can humanize your organization, elevating your corporate and personal brand by putting a face on your business for clients. Personally, if I were a business owner – one day – I’d want to hire employees who are outgoing, good socializers, are proud of their personal interests, and are free to speak their minds and share opinions. Just play it cool.
“You have to be careful, because people are watching all of you as opposed to just your business persona,” Newman notes. “So there’s a little bit of a filter that needs to happen there.”
Personally, I’m a firm believer in transparency. You can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more, and you can uncover pretty much everything about me you’d want to know (or not). As a friend told me the other day, “Jeff, you really put it all out there.”
And why not? You want to work in a place where people accept you for who you are, not the person you pretend to be.