Build Your Personal Brand: Protecting Your Professional Reputation

personal brand

(Used with permission from

Every day, we’re confronted with the fall out from poorly managed privacy settings on social media. Usually, it’s a politician who tweeted when he meant to DM, or a celebrity who wasn’t aware that her Facebook photos were available for general public consumption. But just because the biggest news stories feature the rich and famous, doesn’t mean we, the proletariat, can’t experience professional problems as a result of not understanding how to manage our online privacy. Here’s how to make sure you’re safe from malicious strangers and well-meaning HR professionals alike.

1. Think twice before you post.
This is the single most important thing you can do to protect your privacy. Before you tweet, post, comment, or send anything to anyone, double-check to make sure that you really want to make this particular piece of information public. Ideally, we would never put anything online, under any privacy settings, that we wouldn’t print on a T-shirt and wear to the mall. Safeguards fail, even if you’re scrupulously careful. Plus, there’s always the chance that someone will gain access to your account and find the content you’ve been hiding from the public at large.

2. Tighten up those security settings.
Review your social media accounts on a regular basis to make sure that everything is locked up as tightly as possible. Get used to using the privacy filters on your accounts, so that you know how to share info with just one group or circle.

[Read: How to Leverage LinkedIn to Get a Job.]

3. Look at your pages through the eyes of a stranger.
Google+ allows you to view your account from the perspective of any of your circles. Many other social networks do not have this option, so to see them through an outsider’s eyes, log out of your account, and then try to view your content. You might be surprised at what’s public and what’s private.

[Update your professional presence in-person as well as online.]

4. Keep up-to-date on changes to your social networks.
Every time Facebook releases a new update, different information goes to the top of users’ timelines. As a result, even the most carefully pruned and tended Facebook page can present a less-than-flattering picture of its owner. No one wants prospective employers to see notes they left for friends six years ago, even if there’s nothing in them that’s particularly unprofessional.

5. Google yourself.
Get in the habit of Googling your own name from time to time to see what will come up during a professional search. Again, log out of Google to mimic the experience of a stranger Googling your name. (Otherwise, your top search results will be affected by Google settings, giving you a skewed view.)

Have you ever posted anything you later regretted? How did it affect you?

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