Your online activities are like a permanent tattoo; they can never be erased. Like getting a tattoo, the impulsive actions are the ones you usually end up regretting. As Warren Buffet aptly said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” It may not be your drunken selfies or spewed vitriol on social media that might affect you. Many subtler things you do might be ruining your professional reputation. These mistakes can also kill your career if you’re not careful.
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“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” – Warren Buffet
Mixing personal and professional lives on social media
Being boastful of a wonderful life on professional networking sites is the best way to lose credibility. When you tell the world that you have the most amazing wife or husband and the most talented children, the truth is no one really cares. Putting details of your personal life on a professional platform, such as LinkedIn, and venting on Facebook about your work problems degrades your reputation.
Blabbing or badmouthing colleagues or clients
When you blab things online or make embarrassing statements on email, you immortalise them forever. Do you have difficult clients who frustrate the bejesus out of you? Don’t defame them online. Disclosing company strategies, personal opinions, political leanings and religious beliefs by going on a mindless rant online are sure shot ways to ruin your professional reputation.
Posting inappropriate photos or videos
Everything you ever post online has a way of coming back to haunt you. These are bound to be the first search results to show up when someone looks you up on Google. It could be a prospective hiring manager who’s doing a background search on you. Do you want them to see your inappropriate photos? As a rule of thumb, don’t post anything online that you don’t want your mother to see.
Listing your degrees with your name
This is especially true of your LinkedIn profile. Listing obscure certifications and all sorts of academic degrees next to your name makes you look silly and unprofessional.
Unbalanced online content
If the connections on your social network are a mix of professional and personal, ensure that you don’t post too many party pictures. Else, you run a risk of not being taken seriously at work. You will be judged by the ratio of non-work related content versus professional content that shows up on your profile feed.
Ill-timed online activity
Do you make Facebook posts or blog during working hours? Most things you do online are time-stamped. Your future or current employer can figure out if you’re regularly commenting or posting on Facebook during work hours. This will not only ruin your reputation but can also get you fired.
Indulging in unprofessional conversation
Not being conscious of where and what you comment on is another common mistake that affects your professional reputation. Choose relevant industry groups on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to make your online presence known.
When it comes to online activities, draw a line between your personal and professional life. Before posting anything on social media, weigh its relevance and consider its effect on your permanent record online. Although you can clean up the mess you made to some degree, it is difficult to completely remove your online footprint. A little common sense and some wise moves can save your professional reputation.