Lindsay Olson

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Balancing Your Personal and Professional Identities Online

Many people who use social media connect with both friends and coworkers on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google + and Twitter. In a study by Millennial Branding and Identified.com, results showed that people on average are connected to 16 coworkers, yet still share intimate details of their personal lives. Good idea? Maybe not.

What Gen Y’s Doing (or Not Doing)

Generation Y (those 18-29 years old) tends to be the most open about their lives, but may not do a great job of separating personal and professional profiles online, to their detriment.

It’s sad but true: people have been fired for what they’ve posted to social profiles, so it’s important to realize who’s “listening” to what you’re posting online.

Many people don’t really use social media effectively to network professionally online, so while they’re great at using it to connect with friends and family, there’s a huge opportunity for young people to use social tools to find a job or get a promotion.

The study by Millennial Branding and Identified.com shows that only 36% of Gen Y social media users post a job entry to their social profiles. With employers searching online for job candidates, this means that while your social profiles will pop up, there won’t be any job history appearing in search results for you unless you add the details to your online profiles.

Separating the Two

Given the privacy features all social media sites offer, there’s no reason you can’t have business and pleasure online, and separate them as well.

Facebook and Google + let you target who you share certain updates with. Create groups for people you don’t mind sharing personal details with, and create groups for people you work with. If you’ve got last night’s party pictures, share with Friends and Family, and leave the Coworkers group out.

Consider only linking with coworkers on sites where you’re 100% professional, like LinkedIn and Twitter. Save the personal side of you for other sites, like Facebook. I don’t personally follow this suggestion because I choose to share only what I am comfortable with everyone knowing about me and certain posts I will only share with certain groups of people.

Don’t be afraid to not connect with coworkers. If your boss sends you a friend request and you’re uncomfortable accepting it, explain to her that you would prefer to keep work and personal separate, and that you have a policy of not connecting with coworkers online (just make sure that’s true). There’s a balance in being social media savvy and being a professional employee. Determine your own business/pleasure policy and stick to it when it comes to hanging out on social sites.


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