10 Social Media Mistakes That Can Derail Your Career

Monica was a manager for a mid-sized financial services firm. She managed a team of eight people. She was very outgoing and social, a high “I” (Influencing) on her DISC profile. She was known at work as a connector. She seemed to know everyone and was the go-to person for what was going on behind the scenes. Monica also was very active online. She liked to keep up with what her friends were doing and posted nearly every day about her personal life on the social platforms. Some of her direct reports and colleagues also were connected to her on these social networks. At times, the Monday morning chatter was about what Monica had been up to over the weekend.  As a result, the perception of Monica’s executive presence, leadership potential, and, therefore, career opportunities, began to suffer.

According to a survey by FindLaw.com, about 70% of young professionals are unaware of the potential damage to their careers from careless online activity.* Keep in mind that your reputation will be formed from not only the perceptions about you at work, but also from outside sources. Social medial platforms can be wonderful tools for advancing your executive presence, if you use them strategically. 

10 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Executive presence is the professional and leadership capacity others see in you and is comprised of four dimensions: your Business Intelligence, Business Impact, Relationships and Reputation. Following are 10 of the most common mistakes I see professionals make on their social networks that impact each of these dimensions of executive presence, and steps you can take to avoid them. 

  • Your profile is incomplete and not up to date.  People look at your profile to get a sense of who you are. You want to put your best foot forward. Keep the information about your work experience, education, certifications and interests up to date.  
  • Your LinkedIn profile photo is not professional. Perceptions are often formed from the image projected by your photo. Select a photo that is professionally taken and represents the brand you wish to portray.  
  • Your LinkedIn profile description or experience listings don’t speak to your business impact. Make sure you include outcomes you’ve achieved. Show that you know how to get results. 
  • You don’t contribute to the community with your expertise. Don’t just read other people’s posts, share your own. Write short posts about your industry or area of expertise.  Share articles, studies, and other useful information you come across in your personal development. Others will see you as a resource and expert.  Join industry or professional association online groups. A lot of information relevant to your work is shared through these groups. You also can make important connections that could be instrumental in your work and career. 
  • You share too much. There is open access to some portions of your public profile on any platform. Balance sharing TMI (too much information) and engaging people in your life. Keep in mind there’s only so much people want to know and see of you. There also are boundaries in professional relationships. Be conscientious about what you post. What would you tell your co-workers or a prospective employer about your weekend in a conversation or interview? What you would not say is what you sometimes post and what they see. 
  • You have a small network and don’t show up as a person of influence. You don’t proactively seek out strategic connections important for building your network. If you’re not connecting, you’re missing out on gaining valuable insights and opportunities to share yours. 
  • Your network doesn’t align with the platform.  Each platform is best for different types of relationships and information sharing. Thoughtfully make connections on each platform based on the type of relationships you have or want to develop.   
  • You make comments about your employer or someone at work. When something happens at work you’re not happy with, refrain from sharing your frustrations with your social network. Defamation, sharing confidential or untrue information can cause you to lose your job.
  • Your language is sometimes less appropriate for a public forum. Be careful of what you say and especially how you say it. Without the benefit of verbal and non-verbal cues, messages can easily be taken not as you intended.
  • You’re relaxed with your grammar. You like to be informal when communicating with your friends. However, people will judge your intelligence by your spelling and grammar. You’re often simply in a hurry. But, take a minute to clean up your writing. 

Use these digital platforms thoughtfully and strategically. Consider which platforms you should use and for what purpose. Connect to individuals for each platform based on relevance for the purpose of your relationship. Post on each platform based on the purpose you’ve decided to use it for and the outcomes you wish to achieve. Remember the balance of TMI. 

*Is Social Media Helping or Hindering Young People’s Career Prospects? by Josh Hansen, Oct 11, 2017, careerenlightenment.com

If you want to make sure the image you project to your professional network is a positive one, or to learn more about improving your executive presence, click here to download my guide to Troubleshoot your executive presence.

Can Social Media Really Effect My Executive Presence?

Pamela had spent months sending out resumes and applying for jobs. She was ready to make a change in her career. She had eleven years of experience in her field, had a master’s degree, and had earned the recognized professional certifications. So, she was well qualified. Pamela was very active on social media. She posted pretty regularly about what was going on in her life, liked other posts, and commented on various topics, from the news of the day to her political opinions. Pamela began to get frustrated that she hadn’t had very many interview opportunities and no offers. She was having coffee with a friend, Josie, lamenting about her lack of progress. “What kind of feedback are you getting?”, Josie asked. “I’m mostly told that though my qualifications are strong, I don’t seem to be the right fit for the company”, Pamela sighed.

What Pamela didn’t realize is that her social media activity was impacting her ability to be considered seriously among recruiters.  Professionals forget that you are always “on”.  You are visible even when you don’t realize or think about it. And, now, with use of the digital platforms, you can be “on” 24×7.   

A recent survey by CareerBuilder found that “70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring. More than half of employers (54 percent) find content on social media that caused them not to hire a candidate.”* The content is fair game for decisions made on internal candidates, as well.

Your opinion may be that people have to accept you for who you are. Yes, authenticity is important. Just remember that there are consequences to each of your decisions. Our brains process what we know or believe to be true about someone.  All the information about you can be used to form your reputation, which can impact opportunities in your career. 

People don’t necessarily separate you from your work and personal lives, especially with the digital window into your personal world at any time. What you share is a reflection of who you are more holistically.

As a leader and professional at any level, your executive presence is weighed by not only the perceptions about you at work, but also from other sources. The digital platforms can be wonderful tools for advancing your executive presence. It’s all in how you use them. 

Watch for the next article where I uncover 10 of the most common social media mistakes I see professionals make and how to avoid them.

*70% of employers are snooping candidates’ social media profiles, By Lauren Salm, June 15, 2017, CareerBuilder.com

If you are struggling like Pamela, to find out where you could be going wrong or might need to improve, click here to download my guide to Troubleshoot your executive presence.