I find my 20-something experience is very different than the one my parents lived through. Although we are living in the same world, I often feel like older generations don’t really understand my world at all. ‘That world’ being the “World Wide Web” (it’s funny because those older generations are probably the only ones really calling it the “World Wide Web”). For us 20-somethings it has become normal to use the internet to make a large amount of our private lives public.  In doing so, I find I am constantly trying to find a balance between my online world and my real world.

An Open Macbook

I am someone who strongly embraces the opportunity to share who I am online. I tend to be an open Macbook, if you will. My daily life, my dreams, my XPro II filtered breakfast platter, these are the things I want the world to know about me. Clearly I am a fan of over sharing on the Internet, because as we speak, (or you read) you are learning about me through my online life.  

I do find it hard to figure out how my online skills fit into a professional world.

While this world of online sharing allows for connection and self-expression, it also gets complicated when it comes to employment. When our parents were 20-somethings entering the workforce, they were  judged solely as the person they presented through a cover letter, resume, and interview. That’s not true anymore. By posting our private lives for all to see, we open the doors for employers to see all of us as well. Having hired staff myself, it has definitely become common practice to facebook stalk someone before hiring them. That is kind of scary to think about.  A simple google search can expose you as someone who has experienced a lot more than professionalism.   

But the professional world wants us to be online, while also judging us for being online. How do we win?  

 

I have some personal experience with this dilemma. The organization I was working for was looking for some guidance in video editing and social media. While I am pretty experienced in both, I didn’t really feel comfortable sharing my expertise as all of my experience comes from filming and editing a personal youtube channel I really didn’t want my employer finding out about.   

So the question arises…how do I balance my online life and my professional life?

I will be the first to tell you, I am not always sure. This is something I struggle with as a 20-something who produces and shares a large amount of online content.  The Internet is my hobby, a hobby I am constantly reminded may be keeping me from my dream job. I have been asked multiple times by my parents and other adults (I say “adults” because as a 20-something I do not feel adult enough to consider myself an adult as well) if I thought I didn’t get a job I was interviewing for because they might have found my social media accounts. This is troublesome because I put things online for people to see, and then I am told I should be cautious about what people can see.

Managing your social media accounts while looking for jobs is a smart thing to do.

While job hunting I have found it’s good to play it safe and make your profiles “unsearchable” to employers who are looking to dig a little deeper into your personal life.  I do this, not because I have a lot to hide, but mainly to protect my professional reputation from a perception of my life outside of work.  It is as easy as changing your profile names to something other than your birth name. An employer may be looking for information about “Sarah Daniel”, but they will be looking in the wrong place if everything is posted under “Sarahloveseggsandboybands” (don’t waste your time searching that…while the statement is real, the profile is not). There is also the traditional route of using a varying combination of your first and middle name instead of your last name. It’s really up to you.

Work Life/Home life Balance

While keeping a low profile (literally) while job hunting is important, it’s also a good idea to use some discretion when you’ve already landed a job.

I think It’s important to have a little work-life/ home-life separation. Personal Sarah can be very different from professional Sarah, and I would never want my Internet image to negatively affect my work image. Yes there is a video of me pretending to be Louis Tomlinson from One Direction on the internet, and no I don’t really want my supervisors to see that. I have made it a personal policy to never be facebook friends with work friends simply because I like to draw a line between my personal life and my online life.     

It should be noted that every job and office is different. While some workplaces could care less about what you post online, others may be bothered by it. I have worked in some environments with pretty strict social media policies and others who are unaffected by it completely.  I think it’s best to get to know your workplace and your industry and how they work with your social media presence.   

While I am not sure I fully know the best way to balance my own work life and professional life, I do know it is something to be aware of. We are 20-somethings living in a new and different world, and the internet is a big part of that.  

How has social media positively or negatively affected your professional life?  I would love to know in the comments below.