It’s estimated that 81% of Americans are on social media, (up 5% from last year) so it’s more than likely that you’ll come across professional contacts on various social media platforms. While it might be second nature to connect with those in your professional network, it’s important to think twice before adding a professional contact on social media and make a conscious decision about whether or not connecting is the right move. There are a few extremely important things to consider first.
Nothing is private
One of the reasons why you should think twice before adding a professional contact on a social platform is because nothing is private. This goes for anything you put on the internet, but it becomes even more important when you’re dealing with your career. Regardless of privacy settings, it’s important to remember that everything you put out there can be seen by those in your network.
The first thing that comes to mind may be party pictures, but it’s important to think about the other factors of social media that others see. Are you posting pictures of a relaxing mental health day? Or did one of your friends post a funny meme that your boss might not like? Just remember that when you connect with someone on social media, you are giving them a window into your personal life. If you’re someone that likes to keep your work life separate from your private life, it’s best not to connect with professional contacts on social media.
You’re putting yourself in the line of judgement
It’s human nature to judge others, but when you add a professional contact on social media, you’re opening yourself up to a new line of judgement. Think about it this way: If someone sends you an email and you don’t respond, but you’re actively posting on social media, it sends the message that you don’t care enough to respond to your professional contact, or that you are spending more time on social media than handling your professional obligations.
This can negatively affect you and cause others to judge your work ethic and level of respect. Similarly, if you’re sneakily (or not so sneakily) on social media at work, others will be able to see it. Depending on the office culture and social media rules, this may or may not be allowed, so you’ll want to make sure that you consider this when you’re posting.
If you’re someone who often posts social updates and pictures, you might want to think twice before adding a professional contact on a social platform so it doesn’t affect your reputation at work. If you are going to make a social post, be conscious of who will see it and what they will think.
Sometimes it’s best to keep your work and personal life separate
An industry-wide study of over 2,500 people found that 55% of workers would take less pay to have more fun at work. With that in mind, fun at work is still different than fun outside of work, and it’s important to note the difference. Regardless of your company culture or how relaxed your office is, it’s still important to remember that work is work, and you need to uphold your professionalism.
Remember that you can’t un-see something. If someone sees a picture of you hanging out at the beach in a bathing suit, they will remember that at the office. If you’re comfortable with your office contacts seeing you in that setting, there’s no problem, but it just depends on what you’re comfortable with. It’s a very personal decision that only you can make.
This goes back to the judgement issue, but one of the reasons why you should think twice before adding a professional contact on a social platform is because you don’t want your personal life, outside hobbies, or personal opinions to have an impact on your work. In a perfect world these issues would not affect one another, but it’s human nature to take everything into consideration. With that said, it would be a shame if a personal opinion or weekend activity affected how someone viewed your work or your professional reputation.
In a society where we’re all connected and plugged into various social platforms, it’s important to think twice before adding a professional contact on social media. Ultimately it comes down to what you’re comfortable with and what you want to share with others. Social platforms are a window into our personal lives, so when you’re considering adding a professional contact, consider if your personal life outside of the office is something you’re willing to share, or if it’s something that you want to keep private.
A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of writestylesonline.com. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume, style, and boost your confidence.