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Like it or not, all your social media posts about your children and grandchildren, politics, vacations and whatever else strikes your fancy present a portrait of you to the world. Just as we remind our kids that the kind of image they create online will follow them, your personal “brand” also matters — whether you work full time, part time or volunteer.
So does that call for keeping your social media accounts professionally focused? Not necessarily, say two career experts. But they agree that your online image must be carefully curated.
“On social media you want to show what you’re good at beyond what you ate for breakfast or that you have 10 grandkids,” says Jean Baur, author of Eliminated! Now What? “Think of branding yourself online as who you want to be known as.” That can relate to work or an avocation. Baur, for example, brands herself as both a career coach and a therapy dog advocate.
A social media presence proves that you’re not a complete dinosaur when it comes to technology. Don’t wait until you’re downsized on the job before creating a social media footprint. “If you’re a boomer who needs or wants to work, it’s really smart to have some social media presence,” Baur says.
Start with a LinkedIn account, the first place employers look. Make sure to list your top accomplishments and skills, and ask people to endorse your skills. It’s also important to use key words — sales, marketing, project management — that HR scans for in résumés. And lose the vacation photo. Instead, post a good headshot. If this seems a bit overwhelming, Baur suggests heading to the local library, where free tech help with social media is often available. Or check out aarp.org/academy for free video courses on the topic.
The next step is to do some spring-cleaning on your Facebook page, says Robin Ryan, author of Over 40 & You’re Hired! “Younger HR professionals especially check out Facebook, which too often presents an open book on your life. “We learn everything that you blab to the world, from hating your new hair color to your take on politics,” she says.
Here are Ryan’s tips for cleaning up your Facebook page:
- Remove any political statements, including photos at demonstrations. “Those comments and photos make employers nervous that a person will come in and cause problems with other employees.”
- Review party photos. While photos of family fun are OK, make sure that you’re not having too good a time in pictures posted on your own page or on friends’ pages.
- Don’t bad-mouth your current job. “If you took a spa day ... fine. But don’t write that you needed it because your work is so stressful.”
- Delete comments that show bias. “Even an offhand comment or a joke can be perceived as racist. Diversity is a big issue.”
If stripping your Facebook page of all opinion seems impossible, then consider a professional page with only posts and accomplishments related to your career or avocation. The posts can be informative (a news item) or fun (a video), but taken together they present a professional image rather than a personal one. Another alternative is to maximize privacy settings to keep the world out and only close family and friends in.
An edited Facebook page or separate one can be a launching pad for a career change or part-time work. If your dream is to turn your passion for quilting into a career, Ryan says to share that with quilting posts and look for Facebook pages devoted to quilting.
What about Twitter and Instagram? Instagram is used mainly for fun, although many people also create an image (perhaps unconsciously), posting only food or travel photos.
Twitter is a great way to follow people with similar passions, Ryan says: “Unless you’re Kim Kardashian, you’re not likely to get millions of followers, but you can still use Twitter to connect with others.”
Mary W. Quigley, a journalist and author, has written two books about motherhood and work. A New York University journalism professor, she is the mother of three adult children and blogs at Mothering21.com
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