North Texas Daily

The truth about professionalism and social media

The truth about professionalism and social media

The truth about professionalism and social media
January 31
17:23 2021

As a student journalist, practicing strict social media etiquette is non-negotiable. I have never been the person to air their dirty laundry on the timeline, so it took me a while to become self-aware and tighten up on what I share on social media. In some cases, expressing my opinion — even in a well-thought-out manner — has the potential to make or break my future as a journalist. Some careers allow more flexibility in how you present yourself on social media, so social media professionalism comes down to what field you want to work in. Consider asking yourself these questions: Will I be considered a public figure? Will I be working in a team-oriented environment? Many people associate professionalism with dulling or hiding their personality and sometimes that may be the case. Some topics are simply not up for discussion on social media. It has become the societal norm to believe a person cannot separate their personal beliefs from work and it is true for most people. It is entirely fair to assume someone’s belief system based on what they post on social media.

I have friends who submit applications and do not try to clean up their social media because it is not a “real” job. Always assume a potential employer is going to do at least a brief Google search of your name. Never underestimate a prospective employer’s standard of professionalism. The key is to conduct yourself on the Internet in a manner that does not require you to clean up your social media. Consider you are initially overlooked for a job, but the hiring team keeps your application on file for a rainy day. Months may go by before they decide to trace your digital footprint. So your best bet is to choose how you will represent yourself on the internet and be consistent with it.

The whole idea behind social media is self-expression. I enjoy generally harmless things like music and basketball, but I am also opinionated and vocal about current events. That is where people typically run into trouble. Obvious instances aside, I do think it is a bit farfetched to judge someone’s employability by their social media. The idea people must always be in their professional work mode promotes workaholic culture. Everyone deserves the opportunity to express themselves. The reality is, your social media presence matters and you must determine if the freedom to rant freely on Twitter is worth more than a career.

Unpopular opinion: It is totally fine to discuss politics on social media. In fact, some people argue they are willing to be open about politics on social media because they do not want to work for an employer whose political beliefs contradict their own. While I can understand that argument, it remains true hiring departments want to hire people who can show restraint. Refrain from posting erratic rants. A simple retweet about political news from a reputable outlet is a great way to show you support a cause, or do not support it, without coming across as too passionate. Being too personal on social media is another way people go wrong. If you constantly tweet about your problematic roommates or overbearing professor, you may come across as someone who would rather complain than problem solve. Being able to dissect and resolve an issue without making a big deal out of it is one of the most valued skills Whether you are a doctor unsure how to diagnose a patient, a childcare worker faced with a stubborn child or a hairstylist asked to perform a difficult haircut, virtually every job requires the ability to assess a situation and fix it in a timely manner.

Every person needs an outlet to rant, but social media is not a diary for people who are serious about their job application. If you have a hard time distinguishing what is appropriate for social media, ask yourself if you would blurt it out in the workplace? We all have our work best friends but picture yourself telling the person you awkwardly smile and nod at when they enter the break room. Ultimately, what is appropriate to say in a workplace varies by the field. It is your job to know how to read the room, including virtual ones.

In general, you should make sure your social media has a balance. Show your personality and hobbies, and post screenshots of the song you can’t stop listening to. Just keep in mind hiring departments are looking for employees who will keep their head down and work hard. Do not allow your internet presence to overshadow what you have to offer professionally.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Rhema Joy Bell

Rhema Joy Bell

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