An unnamed number of years ago when I ventured into my first social media outlet (the uber-trendy Xanga world that all the cool kids were into), it never would have dawned on me to include business associates and coworkers in my list of “friends.” I was fairly certain that these professionals weren’t all that likely to be interested in my ever-changing sparkly kitten-themed pages with 80’s hair band music, nor I theirs. And heart-wrenching public updates about how a certain dysfunctional family member had inflicted pain yet again just wasn’t all that enjoyable of a read when coming from the dorky junior staff accountant three cubicles over.
My, how things have changed. Mr. Dorky Accountant may still be a bespectacled calculus nerd. But wising up, and cleaning up his unwise and quite public dysfunctional family posts, now he’s the Accounting Manager who needs my expertise to find qualified candidates for the openings in his department. And my public profile has matured as well.
For now, Facebook and LinkedIn seem to rule the online networking profiles game. Gone are the hearts-and-daisies backgrounds, the scrolling photos of Aunt April’s Margarita Poker night, and the 412 photos of Junior’s first tee-ball game. If nothing else, assuming you live a fair portion of your life online like the rest of us, perhaps you have a second, more businesslike online identity (or perhaps if you don’t, you might consider it?). And the “friends” you seek now are those who not only can claim a legitimate business relationship with you, but whose connection link may actually boost the perceived value of your professional standing or possibly even open up new career advancement opportunities.
The more the social networks have evolved into these valuable and visible connection lists, the more I have begun to scrutinize my public profiles and even (OMG, dare I admit it) delete the contacts in my friends list whose link to me may be contrary. Don’t get me wrong; I adore hearing all about the 8th grade shenanigans that my cousin and her young friends share with exceptional regularity and in unrestrained detail. And I am thrilled that my now retired Aunt Kitty is looking forward to her fulfilling day at the seniors’ bridge tournament in Mrs. Vivian’s lovely sunroom. But when a middle school catfight or Mrs. Vivian’s affinity for a good Mint Julep spills out onto the message boards, which often feed onto my profile page, suddenly the direct impact that my connection to these friends could have upon my image begins to bear painfully close scrutiny. I’m still quite interested to learn the end of the Mint Julep story, but I’d rather hear it in person while sipping one of my own, thank you.
There’s an added bonus to be had for my recently re-professionalized profiles. Business associates or would-be employers see the qualified and well-connected me, and I have zero qualms about who may stumble across my profile or what they will read when they seek me out online (and they will because I share these links everywhere). And what better place to toot my own horn when I snagged my SPHR designation on the first pass or proclaimed a long-awaited publishing success?
Internal hiring managers, you are also in a unique position to support your recruiting efforts with a well-defined online profile, so potential job seekers need to see a profile that best represents you in your recruiting role. As a keypoint hiring contact for your firm, sourcing for passive candidates through your extended network connections can seem almost effortless, possibly even eliminating the need to place traditional job postings for future openings.
So if you’re starting to realize the potential career impact of your public profiles and the debatable quality of your existing visible connections, it may be time to do your online image a favor with a well-planned trim. But, with loving apologies to Aunt Kitty, if keeping tabs on Mrs. Vivian’s addictions or the love lives of adolescents is the pinnacle of your online networking objectives, more sparkly power to you.
BrightMove Team Writer
Nanci Lamborn is a 20-year veteran of human resources and recruiting. She currently recruits in the Atlanta area for the insurance industry and recently obtained her SPHR designation.