Being a Social Professional

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There’s a strange trend that stands out to me the more social media takes that death grip on our day to day lives, especially as it cements a foothold in our working lives as it has in our personal lives. It’s a loss of professionalism.

I understand that the whole social media movement appears to lend itself to a sort of casual “this is me” vibe. I understand the need to be “real”. But while I’m certainly not one to completely subscribe to the “image is everything” mantra, impressions- visual or otherwise- still mean something.

I love LinkedIn. It fascinates me. It’s not Facebook, though there are some who would like it to be, but rather its an opportunity to be social in our working lives. It allows us to easily stretch our network to something bigger than we could have conceived by simply staying within our own geographical borders. It is difficult, and frowned upon, to just go out into the LinkedIn network and start pulling in unfamiliar connections, a la Facebook or Twitter, because you should have a connection in common to make that link complete.

I have been able to get some good prospecting done because of these networks, because as the adage goes, it’s not necessarily what you know, its who you know.

What baffles me from time to time on some of the discussion boards or in instances where there are opportunities to make connections is when users choose a manner to promote themselves in a ridiculously unprofessional light.

I’m not saying what these people are doing is necessarily offensive (though I do get pretty irked from time to time), or even wrong. The issue I have is that these people have joined this network to further their professional careers. LinkedIn is a far more valuable tool than I gave it credit for just four or five years ago, yet many professionals still use it and view it as another social media toy. Their profiles are sloppy, their head shots are more than amateurish and they come off poorly altogether. I seriously doubt that many of these people would want themselves to be viewed this way in their careers.

I’ve been on many professional encounters in the non-virtual “real” world where the prospect or employer had gathered information on me through researching my LinkedIn page. It gave the person more insight into me than any resume could, therefore I treat it as such. I’m certainly not alone, the majority of LinkedIn users have great profiles. They look professional and willing to be that they found some reward in giving that impression in their network.

I can hear some of those users in my head now, saying that they feel the need to express themselves and keep their image on a personal level to show who they, that they don’t find the need to be some suit-wearing, buttoned up, businessman or woman that isn’t casual, fun and social. That’s fine, especially if that’s the circles you are in and it works for you, rock on. But if your profile and activity don’t express who you are or who you’d like to be professionally, than do yourself a favor and take some time to make it so. Everybody on the network is a professional something, so everyone just use LinkedIn in a professional manner, unless you’d show to an interview or business meeting in shorts and a t-shirt.

Like opportunity that presents itself, use LinkedIn as an opportunity to impress. You’ll get more out of it if you do.

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