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It feels like everyday there is a new social media scandal with a politician or some other person of interest in the hot-seat. From former Congressman Anthony Weiner being exposed for having electronic relationships with over 6 women through Twitter and Facebook to former Mayor of Arlington Oregon Carmen Kontur-Gronquist posting partially nude photo’s on herself on Facebook, it is evident that our personal life is constantly overlapping with our professional life. So, how do we draw a distinct line between the two? Would you want your life on display like Weiner or Kontur-Gronquist? I know I wouldn’t. With more than 700 million users worldwide, and 151 million users in the United States alone (see chart below), it is clear that this imaginary line is more blurred now more than ever before. Everyone I know is on Facebook. My friends, family, businesses I patronize and even the President of the United States, Barack Obama uses Facebook. Although Facebook has become socially acceptable, have you made sure that your personal life is not crippling your professional life?

Don’t Let Them Catch You
If you are looking for a job and or trying to attain your current job, then you may want to be more carefully on how you conduct yourself online. Before you even are considered as a candidate for a position, employers are scanning your Facebook profile to see what type of person you really are. Even though it is none of their business, they still want to know. Instead of paying for a background check, employers are now taking to Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites to judge your character. Although we don’t live high-profile lives like Weiner and Kontur-Gronquist, we still face the possibility of loosing everything in our professional career as they did.

Have you ever heard the saying “Common sense is not always common?”  My mother used to tell me this all the time, especially after witnessing so many crazy things happening around us. This saying is most definitely true! People post the most ridiculous things on Facebook and don’t even think twice on how it can royally screw up their professional career. Now more than ever, employers are using Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites to weed out candidates

For those of you that have a job you may want to think twice about posting yourself getting plastered at happy hour with your co-workers or of you streaking down the street because you lost a bet. Although these situations are pretty funny with your friends the world (including your employer), is not as forgiving as your friends will be once you post it for the world to see.

Play it Smart
If you have a Facebook account or if you are thinking about signing up for one, please take a look over these 10 rules that will help save your professional career:

  1. Set Proper Privacy Settings – Facebook does give you the option to customize your privacy settings. Take some time to go through your profile settings BEFORE you decide to add any comments, posts, or photo’s. It is best to have your profile viewed by friends only…at the least!
  2. Have an Online Alias – Going out into the cyber world can be fun, so you should be creative when creating a cyber identity. Don’t use your government name when creating your profile. Go by your nickname or a name that your feel best suite’s your personality. You can even try spelling your name differently. If your name is Crystal, use Cristal or Chris. Whatever name you choose make sure it that if it is found by employers, it is not offensive.
  3. Use Your BEST Judgment –  Avoid embarrassing posts by using your best judgment, especially when posting images. If you wouldn’t show this picture to your mother or your boss, then don’t post it! Refrain from posting pictures of you intoxicated, nude or in another compromising position. My personal rule of thumb is if I don’t feel comfortable having my mother read it or see… I won’t post it (FYI my mother is Facebook friend)!
  4. Filter, Filter, Filter – The delete button and the un-tag button have become my best friends now that I am on Facebook. When people post pictures that I do not want to be affiliated with I am quick to un-tag myself. If someone post’s something on my page that I feel is inappropriate, I am not afraid to delete the comment or that so-called “friend”.
  5. Protect Your Albums – Adjust your privacy setting on your albums so that only certain people can view your photos. When I am Facebook stalking (yes I Facebook stalk to ease my people watching addiction) you would not guess how many people have their photo’s available for everyone to see. NOT GOOD. Make sure your comfortable with who is viewing your personal pictures.
  6. Not All Friends are Good Friends –  Facebook put’s us in the unfortunate position of friending people who really are not our friends. Most of the people who request me I don’t even know! Be careful of this. If you are in the midst of a job hunt and have a an influx of friend requests that you really do not know… Don’t accept their requests! Companies are notorious for creating false profiles to spy on potential job candidates. This rule should be followed if you are working as well. Companies will request friendships on Facebook with current employees. There are always 6 degrees of separation between you and another person on this earth. Someone will always know someone you know and it can come back to hurt you.
  7. Don’t Request or Accept a Request From Your Boss or Co-Workers – This is a big time no-no. If you are friends with people on the job now, please immediately un-friend them. Do not feel bad when they bring up how you unfriended them. Simply tell them that you want to keep distance between your professional and your personal life. You have that right! Besides, if you do post something that they don’t agree with they will not think twice about turning you in to management (they could be management themselves).
  8. Don’t Bad Mouth People on Facebook – Most importantly DO NOT bad mouth your employer on Facebook! It’s just not a smart thing to do. Keep your rants and negative comments off of Facebook and off the internet as well. Refer back to #6 if you are still confused with this rule!
  9. Facebook Page vs. Fan Page – Facebook does not want people creating more than one profile. So please don’t make up multiple pages for yourself. Either create your alias and stick with that or create a legitimate fan page (you can have multiple fan pages but only one individual profile). I added this rule because if you have another profession or looking for another job, your business or interests can be conflict of interest to the employer. Think this one through.
  10. Remove yourself from Facebook Search Results – Be as invisible as possible while using Facebook. I know you want to have a social life, but when your social life get’s in the way of feeding yourself or your family, priorities must be considered.

Bottom Line
Don’t rush to delete your profile, just understand that times have changed, we live in an information world and we must adjust to this. Before someone decides to go on a blind date, it’s not uncommon for that person to google the person they are going on the date with. Before a parent sends their child to a new school, it’s likely that they will take to the world-wide-web to see if this new school has any teachers that they find unacceptable.

So why can’t employers do their research on you? Before you accept a new position I am sure that you research the company extensively before you say yes, right?!?!? My advice to you is to watch your back. Don’t let your employer catch you representing yourself in any way less than professional. It is possible to have a completely fun personal life and a vibrant professional life. Through good judgement and through following the above referenced steps you can save your career!

Some of you may already know this information or find it redundant, but I am sure that you know more than one person who you feel should read these rules. If so don’t be afraid to pass this page along to them. Help them save their career!

Facebook Picture Walk of Shame

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