Today we had a speaker in class who focused on the importance of having a LinkedIn account and networking through social media. What she had to share was really helpful especially to someone like me who is starting to transition out of school and into the “real world.” As she was talking about the importance of having a professional profile across all social media platforms though, there was one question that came to mind: When it comes to social media, do I have to sacrifice my personality for professionalism?
As I talked about this topic with one of my suitemates, I realized that millennials are the first to truly have to make this transition from college to career in a social media driven age. Social media isn’t a new concept to my generation, but the social media that we grew up with was just that–social. It was important to be wise with the photos and statuses we posted; however, for me at least, social media didn’t have anything to do with whether or not I would be hired for a position. That is, until I got to college.
When I realized just how important social media is to my future career and occupational goals (especially in the world of journalism), I created my Twitter account with the sole purpose of using it for professional posts.
Confession: There would be times when I took so long arguing with myself about whether or not I should actually post a tweet I constructed that by the time I came to a decision, it was no longer relevant and I ended up not sending it.
However, my Facebook and Instagram profile were a completely different story. I kept both of those accounts private so that for the most part, the people who would see these posts know me and understand where I’m coming from when I post something I think is funny or “rant” about an experience I’ve had. Please don’t get me wrong, I do not advise being careless with posting on social media just because the account is “private,” but I felt like I could post things that were more personalized to who I am, how think, and what I like. For example, on Facebook, you might find a lot of posts related to how much I love Texas. If you didn’t really know me, you’d think it completely weird and disturbing especially given the fact that I’m from Hawaii and don’t even live in that state. Granted, even people who know me well, might still think I have an unhealthy obsession with Texas, but at least they have some context for those posts and, well, it’s TEXAS! I also love Jimmy Needham, Jimmy Fallon, and puns. None of those facts about me will get me hired, in fact, some of that might actually be a disincentive to hire me, but the thing is–that’s part of who I am.
Now that I basically made all these personal facts open to the public, my whole concern about whether I should keep these things private may be irrelevant. However, it is still a balance I would like to know how to strike. Private or not, I want to be very cautious about what I post and avoid posting something that would put my job, or character, in jeopardy, but I would like to be “me” sometimes. I don’t always want to hide behind a professional front that says”’ “I have it all together and I love everything I am doing right now.” Especially with my close friends spread out around the country and possibly soon around the world, I want to be able to keep a real, unedited part of me on social media.
One point though that I thought was interesting and a bit convicting is that sometimes, I forget that those things can be expressed in person. I was talking to a fellow intern about this and asked her when I’m supposed to express my opinions or rants. She simply replied, “in-person.” Talk about a stereotypical millennial moment. So, yes, there is a time and outlet for everything. Whether you’re trying to demonstrate your freedom of expression or not, there are certain things that just shouldn’t go on social media… save it to discuss with your mom or something. However, I can honestly say that I don’t like the idea of hiding behind a professional front on social media.
What do you think? Am I reading into this too much? How do YOU balance professionalism and personality on social media?