Social networking

Developing an online presence can give your career a boost. Just beware the pitfalls, says Steve Irish

EVERY business worth its salt knows the potential benefits of using social media. But individuals can also use them as a platform for career progression.

“Your online footprint is an increasingly significant factor in your career,” says internet psychologist Graham Jones. “Making sure you do it right is essential.” Getting it right can mean establishing yourself as an expert, or an important name, within your field. It can be an invaluable way of getting noticed both within your company and by other firms – but, of course, there are potential pitfalls, too. Here are some tips on how to make social networking work for you.

This is probably the most important rule of all. Most companies now have internal guidelines about what employees can and can’t post online. Read them. Read them again. It might not be as simple as not posting confidential information or swearing. Are you allowed to tweet about your work from an unofficial account? If you are, your work may wish you to self-censor other posts from that account. If you post “Great quarterly results by X Company today, well done team” next to “OMG, soooooo drunk last night, head still spinning! #megalulz”, you could be accused of bringing the company into disrepute. As a general rule of thumb – and this should go without saying – if you’re putting something online, first imagine your boss and your mother reading it. If it passes the test, it’ll probably be fine.

Of all the social networks, LinkedIn is the most nakedly business focused. Companies looking to recruit will almost certainly check your LinkedIn profile, so make sure your talents are properly showcased. Write a snappy summary and keep your recent employment information up to date, including any special responsibilities you have.

If you want to build yourself a personal brand, you need to bear that in mind when you’re posting on social media. “There is no harm in showing some of your personality online,” says Jones. “In fact, this can be a positive thing. It can give an indication of the ‘real’ you, which recruiters will be interested in.” There is a fine line, though – too many inane tweets of photographs of your baby will start to grate on people very quickly. If you have a hobby or interest unrelated to your work, consider starting a separate online persona, in order to draw a line between what interests you and what recruiters or colleagues will be interested in.

Less is almost always more. Tweets are 140 characters for a reason – don’t split your content into multiple tweets unless you absolutely have to, there are few things more depressing than seeing “1/23” at the end of a tweet. Same goes for Facebook – if you write an essay, nobody will read it. Online readers have notoriously short attention spans.

The internet can be a cut-throat place. Anonymity makes criticism easy and if you have a large online presence, chances are you will come in for some stick sooner or later. “Don’t respond straight away,” says Jones. “Getting angry or leaping to a vehement defence will probably end up making you look worse than reflecting before replying. Sometimes ignoring the criticism completely is better than being drawn into an argument online.”

If you’re angling for a promotion, let the boss know you know your stuff. Give opinions on issues related to your industry. Consider starting a website or blog that you can link to through social media.



A US school bus driver got the chop in June after posting a comment supporting a pupil who had allegedly been denied his lunch because he was 40 cents short.

Katie Furlong gloated that she may receive a “nice payout” from RBS, who she said could have got rid of her for free. The bank fired her for breaching a secrecy agreement.

Connor Riley’s response to being offered a job at IT giant Cisco was to weigh-up the pros and cons of a job she would hate vs its “fatty” pay packet. She was never hired.

Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan was dropped after a string of offensive tweets about his rivals and, among other things, branding elderly voters “coffin dodgers”.

Brazilian team Palmeiras fired their manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo after he tweeted complaints about one of his star players.