We are more digitally connected than ever before. Because of that I have become more digitally paranoid than ever before and frankly, it is a paranoia that I have embraced because it comes from the horror stories of careers being derailed and professional reputations trashed through the many forms of social media. My best advice is to be your own digital stalker. Routinely search yourself out and see how you are viewed by the rest of the world.
It amazes me the number of people that seem to hit “like” on EVERYTHING. I equate “like” to co-signing. I’m willing to put my name and reputation on it. I am very selective about what I choose to give the thumbs up to. There have been times when reading a post I am agreeing whole heartedly with the poster and then BAM! The last part takes a detour that frankly doesn’t reflect me. It sometimes is riddled with profanity, endorses behaviors that I wouldn’t want associated with me or makes a political statement that frankly would get me in a hot water professionally. Invariably I look at those who “liked” it and think, you couldn’t have read the whole thing. This is the time to be selective. And remember, sometimes it is best to read but withhold comment.
Recently, I had a former parent comment in an online post about my new position LinkedIn profile. While it is strictly professional as a social media tool and I am very strict with regard to what I post and my digital presence, his comment stopped me in my tracks for a number of reasons. First of all, he had to search me out to find me. Yes, people with no real connection will do that. Second, he found me, despite the fact that I keep my privacy settings pretty high on any of my social media sites. The lesson is that parents, former parents, students, former students, colleagues, former colleagues and just people who are interested will and do troll social media. There is an insatiable quest for information, tidbits and just to be in the know that sends people on a hunt. Imagine if I made a habit of posting things that I would not necessarily want public.
So, here is the rule of thumb, at least one that I have found helpful. If it is not something you would display proudly on your bulletin board in your classroom or feel comfortable with your picture next to the post as a headline on the news, don’t post it. On more than one occasion we have had to process the professional fallout when a student unearths a photograph of a staff member in a compromising situation, even when the pictures are from college days. Imagine the questions that come up when a drunken picture is posted online followed by a sick day the next day. Remember, every day is an interview.
It is best to be your own online stalker. Get in the habit of looking at your profiles from the view of a student, a prospective employer and even your parents. Your profile is a potential interview. What are you communicating about yourself, your sense of responsibility and your professionalism?
Director of Human Resources
Cherry Creek School District
The opinions expressed in Career Corner are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.