10 Professionalism Characteristics You’ll Need When Using Social Media
Having good professionalism characteristics is important when you walk into a job interview or take part in one across Zoom. It’s not exclusive to face-to-face or employer-employee interactions, though. You have to assume people are watching you at all times.
Even when your account’s privacy settings are locked-down, professionalism is highly important. We live in a record-everything, screenshot culture. One soured relationship with someone close to you can trigger a conflict that hurts your image. You have to assume that you’re always on display and that no social media account is truly private. To help, here are 10 professionalism characteristics that you’ll want to immediately apply to all of your accounts if, if you haven’t already. Let’s begin!
1. Modest Photos
Make sure your photos match the tone of your voice on social media. If your voice is light and fun, then your photos should be light and fun. If your voice is more serious, then your photos should be more serious.
It’s important to post professional photos on social media because it shows your followers and potential employers that you’re a professional. It shows that you’re a trustworthy source of information and that you’re capable of putting out quality content.
Before you post anything, ask yourself how an employer would perceive you. Would they see you as a good representative of their company? If the answer is “No” or “I don’t know,” then err on the side of caution and don’t post it.
2. Avoid Profanity
Unless profanity is part of your brand — comedians, for instance — avoid it like the plague. The vast majority of jobseekers should never use offensive or potentially offensive language. It is an immediate turnoff to employers.
It’s not that employers are holier-than-thou. It’s that they realize their brand will be perceived by numerous individuals and that those individuals will fit somewhere into their target demographics. If they’re running these people off through the types of people they hire and the messages that are being linked back to them, they won’t be in business very long.
3. Limit Your Political Viewpoints
Politics are a lightning rod of attention. That can be a good thing for some, but for jobseekers, it’s trouble. Not only will it put you in the crosshairs of some pretty caustic arguments, it will also signal to the employer that your values do not align with their own. While an employer would never be so bold to admit that they base hiring decisions on politics to some degree, the reality is that they do.
At least, if your politics are going to be a problem for them.
Something else about posting political viewpoints on social media is this: it’s very tough to keep the conversations they produce from turning into one person shouting over the other. The things that your friends and family members say on comment threads can also reflect poorly of you, even if you do not share their beliefs. Making a political statement isn’t off-limits as long as you can walk that narrow line of professionalism. We recommend staying away from the particularly contentious issues altogether and just assume that whatever you post will get your job application rejected.
4. Do Not Pile On
It’s very easy to join in when someone publicly falls from grace on social media. Especially when those individuals are self-righteous or caustic celebrities. Avoid the temptation to pitch in with the mob.
We all do and say things in our lives that we’re not particularly proud of down the road. Sometimes those things are done or said publicly. Sometimes they’re done or said in private but later outed for all the world to see. As a society, we need to give room to others for growth, or else we’ll risk building the type of society that “cancels” us when we find ourselves on the wrong end of it. (And newsflash: you will be on the wrong end of it at some point because nobody is perfect.)
In short, use your social media for good to create the type of world you would want to live in through good times and bad. Staying out of the pile-ons will help you do this, and it will foster a professional profile.
5. Make Posts Relevant to What You Do
It’s okay to post innocuous things from time to time. Stuff like recipes, what you had for dinner, a program that you really enjoyed, or a family selfie. For the most part, though, you should use your social media as a launchpad for what you do. Show that you’re involved in your industry. Let it demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Employers who can go to your Facebook or LinkedIn and see your competence will have an easier time picturing you within their culture.
6. Steer Clear of Posting Controversial Topics
Controversial topics that go beyond the political should also be off-limits, unless it goes with your career. Journalism is a profession where it might be okay to post a link or photo that has some political or controversial connotation. The vast majority of us, however, are just asking for trouble.
Yes, we know what some of you are thinking. “It’s my page, I post what I want.” True. But companies are thinking the same thing about their own rights. “It’s our business, we’ll hire the types of people we want.” If that means they like to avoid controversy, it could leave you out in the cold.
7. Put Your Best Foot Forward With Video Content
Video content is becoming more and more popular with site features like FacebookLive, TikTok, and Instagram videos. You will inevitably want to get involved with it. If you do, think about how you look and sound and project. Consider things like word choice and the number of vocalized pauses that you use.
These elements might not necessarily disqualify you from a position, but companies will watch you to see how you present yourself. If you use a lot of um’s, uh’s, and have a hard time expressing yourself in general, it can doom your prospects for that particular position to which you’ve applied.
8. Be Consistent With How You Use Social Media
We’ve already touched on this a bit with having a focus for your social media. It’s worth revisiting and repeating, though. Have a purpose for your social media. Don’t use a social media platform otherwise.
Straying from consistency just makes it too easy to slip up and post something that isn’t professional. Ideally, you want to make a company’s decision to hire you an easy one. You also want to maintain marketability for future prospects. Maintaining that singular focus with the majority of your content will help you stay on a posting schedule and be clear on what you do and what you’re good at.
9. Start Accounts Even If You Do Not Plan to Use Them
It might seem like a contradiction to say, “Start an account on all platforms,” but it’s really not. It’s about branding and protecting your identity. Locking down a TikTok or Instagram, for example, even if your platform of choice is Twitter, will help you in two ways.
It will help employers (or future customers, entrepreneurs and influencers) know where to find you and who you are on that particular platform. Also, it will give you a nice launchpad for those platforms if you ever decide to start publishing on them more regularly.
10. Focus On One Network at a Time
Never start posting to a platform before you understand how it operates. Watch others in your industry or niche to get a feel for content. View some of the most popular accounts just to see the type of content that does well. Note the unprofessional, inconsistent, and unrelated types of contents so you know to avoid them. Then, focus on the ones who are doing it in a way that is “hire-able.” Emulate these.
Observing These Professionalism Characteristics from the Beginning Will Set You Up for Success
Professionalism characteristics are important in the real and online worlds. Social media is rampant with examples of what not to do. Understanding that professional behavior translates to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc., will keep you from tripping yourself up on the job hunt or when attracting reputable recruiters. Good luck. Now let’s get those accounts in shape!
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