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Is Social Media Bad for Your Career?

In a NY Times article entitled, “Quit Social Media. Your Career My Depend on It,” Cal Newport outlines the various ways that social media can harm you and, in particular, your career. Is he right? Is social media really bad for your career? The answer – like almost everything in life – is: it depends.

Mr. Newport’s basic premise is that time spent chasing “brand notoriety” and attempting to expand your network is time diverted away from focused attention – particularly on development of your job skills. If you’re good enough at what you do, he writes, you’ll find other, less addictive/immersive/corrosive ways to move your career forward.

I believe that Mr. Newport’s error is that he doesn’t understand social media and how it can be helpful. He doesn’t have a single social media account, so this article is based purely on supposition. And he’s not using research to support his concerns. Still, it’s not to say that his concerns are unfounded.

Social media used poorly is a complete waste of time and energy. If you spend all day on social media, allowing yourself to be pulled away from the task at hand you’re using social media poorly. “Multitasking” = doing nothing well. Also, if you’re espousing offensive beliefs or sending pictures of cute kittens, then you’ve probably killed your career permanently. Most companies will google you and look at your social media accounts before even inviting you for an interview. As you already know, what you post on the internet lives on – even if you outgrow your bad behavior.

Social media used well is a fabulous professional and personal tool. It’s a means of connecting with a community, providing service (in the form of excellent articles, posts, etc. that provide useful information), demonstrating your “brand” – your personality, style, interests, and passions, and increasing your client/customer base. The key is doing it right.

Here are a 5 rules for social media success, whether you’re self- or other-employed:

  1. Post whatever you want (within reason) to your real friends (usually less than 20 people). For everyone else…
  2. Be focused. Decide how you want people to see you – what you want them to think of when they hear your name. Then, post about things that demonstrate that aspect of yourself. You can loosely call that your “brand.”
  3. Provide service. Make sure everything you post has value. It doesn’t have to have value to everyone, but be sure it has value to the people you’d like to attract and connect with. Your generosity will demonstrate a personal characteristic that is highly valued. And people will be grateful.
  4. Connect. Really connect. Start conversations with people you want to get to know. Ask for an informational interview if there’s someone you’d like to emulate. Respond to people’s posts to initiate and maintain a dialogue. In other words, act like you would in the real world if you met someone you’d like to get to know. This is just another avenue for developing a relationship.
  5. Be polite, compassionate, kind, and accepting. No matter what. What you do here could very well define you for a long time. Plus, this is a good skill to cultivate.

Reach me at [email protected], @DrLyssaMenard on Twitter, or Dr Lyssa Menard on Facebook if you’d like more guidance with your career, small business, or entrepreneurial enterprise.

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