Five Business Networking Faux-Pas To Avoid For Young Professionals

business-networking-young-professionalsStarting your career in your chosen field is certainly an exciting time in your life. As your career begins to take off and flourish, there are certain activities and behaviours you can engage in to make the transition into work like more successful and fulfilling. One of these activities is often dreaded and feared by most, let alone young professionals who have little to no practice engaging in it: networking.

Despite this inherent fear, many people choose to overcome it and engage in as many networking opportunities as possible. They do so because they’ve realized one simple truth: your network is your net-worth. The more people you know, the more relationships you form, the more you will succeed in your field, whatever field that may be and regardless of the position you hold.

Now that we’ve established the importance of networking, there are some behaviours to stay away from when at a networking event. These behaviours will serve to not only undermine your executive presence, but will also result in a less-than-stellar networking “performance.” Here are four faux-pas to avoid while networking:

  1. Smelling like smoke
    It is understandable that many people smoke these days. However, if you are a smoker, it is really important that you do not go into a networking event right after smoking a cigarette. Non-smokers (and even many smokers) can’t handle the smell of second hand smoke on someone else. Remember, you are going to this event to meet people and engage them, and turning them off with cigarette smoke is not a great way to start.
  2. Trying to talk to everyoneIt is true that in networking and in business networking, the idea is to touch as many people as possible. You definitely do not want to be talking to the same person the whole night, as that defeats the purpose! However, you don’t want to be simply introducing yourself to someone, handing them your card and then moving on. It is important to establish a rapport with someone before you exit the conversation, to ensure they remember you. Handing them your card is simply not enough to do that.
  1. Have professional-looking business cards, no matter what stage you’re at
    Even if you are still a student, it is important to have professional-looking business cards (and enough of them!). Heavy card stock is always good, and a simple, clean look can go a long way. Make sure your information is easy to read and straightforward. If you are a student, your school likely has a business card format that you could use.
  2. Don’t bring a friend
    The idea at networking events is to meet new people, not to catch up with a friend. Often, when friends go to networking events together, they spend most of their time talking to each other. Going alone will force you to engage with and talk to others.
  3. Don’t drink too much
    This may seem like an obvious one, but often in stressful situations where we don’t feel the most comfortable, another glass of wine usually seems like a great idea. Having a few drinks over the course of the evening is acceptable; overdoing it to the point of inebriation will seriously damper your chances of a successful evening of networking. Pace yourself to one drink an hour, alternate with a glass of water or soft drink, with an absolute limit or three.

Networking can sometimes be scary and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are equipped with the right tools and know what behaviours to avoid, chances are you will have a fun and successful networking experience! Networking doesn’t always have be done at organized networking events, either. Check out our post on unique places you can network!

Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Empathy

This week we continue our series on leadership presence – what it is and how we can attain it. Last week we looked at the first aspect of leadership presence, and arguably it’s foundation, being present.

For this next instalment, we will discuss the next step on the path to attaining leadership presence: reaching out with empathy. According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, reaching out means “the ability to build relationships with others through empathy, listening, and authentic connection” (77).

This may sounds easy or obvious, but in fact is it not. A true leader is someone who reaches out first, and does not wait for opportunities to cross them by. In addition, it is one thing to reach out to others, to seek out opportunities, but if one does so without empathy and compassion, the effect will be lackluster. Both of these characteristics compliment each other and work together to foster leadership.

How Can I Learn to Reach Out and be Empathetic?

There is a saying: “people want to be loved, heard, and made to feel important.” This statement is true in every aspect of life, and especially in business. A true leader will make their colleagues feel heard, and their actions and ideas integral to any business situation. This includes, for example, active listening, as opposed to passive listening, and sensitivity in dealing with potentially awkward situations (such as someone’s terrible idea for a proposal to a potential client). Halpern and Lubar state: “When you know and acknowledge your people and their feelings, they feel more motivated, work more productively, and they’re more likely to stay, even if the going gets though” (89). If you can learn to reach out and be empathetic with your employees, they will be loyal to you and will work harder for you.

If empathy and the ability to reach out doesn’t exactly come natural to you, there are certain actions you can take to encourage this behavior in yourself.

Know What Makes People Tick

Being empathetic does not mean having warm and fuzzy feelings of happiness for the entire population; it simply means understanding someone’s thoughts and feelings. To do this adequately, it is important to get to know the person, and find out what makes them tick, so that you may better understand them in any situation.

Make The Link to Your Own Feelings

 In opposition to sympathy, empathy involves feeling with someone, as opposed to for someone. Therefore, empathy requires you to connect with your own feelings and inner self. Many leaders have the “bad habit” of leaving all their feelings at home before coming to the office. If you do this, your ability to empathize will be gravely affected. We often see this be the case for some in our 360 with clients. Categories of respondents differ in their opinions of the subject. Friends and family will rate their empathy high while colleagues, direct reports and bosses rate it low.

You Can Empathize With Anyone

Naturally, it is easier to empathize with people we like. Empathizing and connecting with others that you may not like or respect can be a challenge, but it is certainly not impossible. Halpern and Lubar suggest thinking about the person with whom you cannot connect with, and trying to find at least one thing (however, the more the better) that you admire about that person, and connecting with them surrounding that. The authors state: “In the end, though, empathy doesn’t involve finding what you like in someone else. It involves finding the humanity in someone else, even in their weakness, and connecting that humanity to your own” (98).

A study of over 38,000 leaders and their organizations (conducted by Hay/McBer), found that “leadership styles that rely heavily on empathy tended to create a more positive company climate {…}” (99), and as we can imagine, a more positive company climate will lead to positive company results.

This week, challenge yourself to connect with others, and especially to those whom you may know you’ll have trouble connecting with. See what a difference empathy can make on your path to developing your leadership presence.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

How To Nurture Your Newest Contacts

If you’re a professional, you know the utter power and influence networking possesses. Networking isn’t always a formal event; it can consist of essentially any activity in which the opportunity to meet new people is present (a tennis tournament, your daughters skating arena, lunch with coworkers, or a family get-together).

growth-in-hand

As a professional, it’s important to recognize that just about everything you do, and everywhere you go, has the potential to be a networking opportunity. In fact, grocery stores across Canada have picked up on the opportunity for young singles to meet while picking up their essentials, and have created “singles night” to encourage the behaviour (see this link for the detailed article). Opportunities exist all over, and it’s important to seize them.

But then what?

What happens after you meet someone new is more important than meeting them in the first place. It is one thing if you are a networking pro and have no problems approaching strangers and striking up a conversation, but it’s what you do with those new contacts that really matters.

Always follow up

It is important not to lose your new contacts’ card somewhere deep in your wallet, only to discover it a year later. No matter how important (or possibly, unimportant) you believe this contact to be, always follow up the following day with a short email. The email might discuss your first meeting, and a suggestion to go for coffee the following week. It is also an opportunity for you to connect with them on LinkedIn.

The idea here is to keep the conversation flowing; to build and nurture the relationship you just formed.

Keep new contacts organized

Having a huge pile of business cards on your desk will not help you nurture your new contacts. As soon as you receive a new card, import the information onto your computer or phone. This will also make it easier to send out greetings during a holiday (another great way to nurture your contacts). If you think you will not remember who the person is or the company they work for, file/tag them by event date or name.

 Remember, it’s a two-way street

 Networking and building your contact base is definitely beneficial to you and your professional career. You recognize the power and importance of having a large network. However it’s also important to remember how you can help your new contacts. Let your knew contacts know about the qualities you possess that may be beneficial to them, and offer your time should they be interested. We call this positive networking.

Don’t take networking for granted, and certainly, don’t take your new contacts for granted! Let them know that they are appreciated, and keep the dialogue flowing.

Set Goals to Reach Executive Presence

 

Executive-PresenceAs we teach at Corporate Class Inc., Executive Presence is neither exclusive nor elusive – it can be learned. Still, a powerful presence is not something that you can acquire instantly without guidance or practice. You must take time to understand and incorporate Executive Presence into your life while building your reputation to go with it.

However, do not let this discourage you from pursuing Executive Presence. Instead, set achievable goals and identify stages on the path to developing an impressive presence – and suddenly it will seem easier than you think!

Here are a few helpful milestones on your path to Executive Presence:

  • Attend an Executive Presence Training Program or Seminar
    When you attend a half-day, one-day, or two-day intensive training program, you gain a solid foundation on which to build your Executive Presence. We provide you with knowledge of all the components of Executive Presence as well as opportunities to practice them in a small-group setting.

    With our training on all aspects of Executive Presence, including interpersonal and digital communication, non-verbal cues, executive dining, workplace best practices, professional image, and more, we set you well on your way to reaching your goal of developing Executive Presence.

  • Update your wardrobe
    Once you understand how to achieve your look of success, act upon it by updating your wardrobe, accessories, and makeup tools accordingly. For example, does your wardrobe match the workplace culture and dress code of your current position? Do your garments appropriately fit your body type and your personal style? However you answer these questions, swap out the items that do not put forth your best professional image. Even investing in 1 to 2 polished and appropriate pieces can go a long way for your image.
  • Attend networking sessions to sharpen communication skills
    Do not simply practice your interpersonal communication skills at random when the occasion arises. Instead, purposefully attend networking sessions so that you can sharpen these skills. Start by working a room – learn to enter a room while feeling at ease yet confident and strong. Also make a point to introduce yourself to several strangers and engage in small talk. The more often you do it, the more natural it will feel.
  • Practice conducting business over a meal
    Just as you can practice interpersonal skills at networking events, schedule a business meeting over lunch in order to refine your executive dining. Start by inviting a close colleague or friend to a meal, so that you can focus on best practices for business dining in a low-pressure situation. This way, when you are meeting an important client or contact over lunch or dinner, you will feel in control.

    Watch our video on 5 Business Dining Etiquette Tips to learn more.

After you develop your Executive Presence foundation at a training program or seminar and then apply your skills in real-life scenarios, your Executive Presence will become increasingly stronger over time.

Additionally, with these single initiatives working together, ultimately Executive Presence will come naturally to you and you will have built a winning reputation. Focusing on small, achievable goals makes the path to Executive Presence attainable for anyone!

 

Do Not Let Fear Limit Your Executive Presence

fearaction“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

What do you think you could accomplish if you simply let go of your fears? Fear influences all of our choices and decisions, and often limits us where we most want to succeed. However, when we stop and take a good look at our fears, we often find that what is behind them is not so perilous after all.

If you want to develop your Executive Presence, you must address your fears and work through them. After all, Executive Presence is built on a strong foundation of confidence and strength in trying moments. And just as Executive Presence is a learned skill, you can also learn to confront your fears until they are simply a challenge that you have overcome.

Professionals hold many fears that prevent them from reaching goals in the workplace. Here are three common fears with tips on how to address them.

Fear of Public Speaking
This is one of the most prevalent fears in the workplace. The anxiety of making a mistake or delivering a poor presentation in front of a large group can be an enormous burden. If this is one of your fears, consider the following tips:

  • Practice, practice, practice – and then practice again. The more you practice your prepared notes, slide changes, and any other elements of your presentation, the less likely it is to go wrong. This alone will give you more confidence to proceed.
  • Keep in mind that the audience likely will not know if you have made a mistake. If you do, calmly keep going as if nothing happened.
  • Before taking the stage or the podium, take a few deep breaths. This will help to calm you before you begin.

Fear of Networking
Some professionals have great discomfort not with standing in front of a group of people, but rather in trying to make a connection with another individual. The potential awkwardness of networking leads some professionals to avoid it altogether. However, since making meaningful professional connections is integral to success, think about these strategies:

  • As with presentations, you can also practice networking. Discuss your professional interests and ideas with a family member or close friend before you converse with strangers at a conference or networking event.
  • Remember that networking events aren’t all about “selling” your professional goals – small talk is equally important for making connections. Before heading to an event, think of a few talking points in advance, so you don’t struggle to come up with conversation topics on the spot.

Fear of Advancement
Are you too apprehensive to assert yourself in the workplace and aim for a promotion or a raise? Or do you think that if you advance to a higher position, you will not be able to perform and won’t “deserve” the promotion? Consider these points:

  • If you are promoted, do not overthink it or doubt the decision. If the management team acknowledges that you should advance within your company, then it is clear that others recognize your successful performance and trust in your capabilities. Now it’s your turn to trust in your own ability.
  • If you aim to get ahead but fear rejection, remember that you will never advance if you simply do not try. When you try to succeed, there is an inevitable risk that you will not. Choose to accept this risk and proceed to strive toward your goals.

What are your greatest fears in the workplace? For more on this topic from our blog, see our previous post on Conquering the Fear of Public Speaking.

 

Small Talk Can Lead to Big Opportunities

97421060When you go to a networking event, do you dread making small talk with strangers? Many find small talk to be awkward, meaningless, or tiresome – but the reality is, small talk is a very important component of making professional connections.

Although the topics discussed during small talk may not be directly related to business, small talk helps to build relationships. This leads to more meaningful discussions, lasting professional partnerships, and business deals. The habit of discussing business all the time is not a path to success – in fact, even in some professional situations it is inappropriate to address business affairs constantly.

Mastering the art of small talk, then, is key to enhancing your own professional presence. Here, we discuss a few starting points and elements of small talk – and opportunities for more practice.

What do I talk about?
Jumping into small talk can seem intimidating – especially if you can’t think of a topic of conversation other than the weather. If you don’t want to start with a cliché or mundane topic like the weather, where do you start?

  • If you are at a national or international event, ask other participants about where they are based, what is interesting about their home city, or what they enjoy about the host city. This gives you a great starting point for further questions, such as great sights to see or questions about their company, instead of a dead-end topic like the weather.
  • Conversely, if someone is from the same city as you, discuss what he or she enjoys about that place. This may allow you to find mutual connections and discuss possible opportunities to meet in your hometown.
  • Ask questions about what other participants do for work and what they enjoy about it. This is not directly related to business affairs, as it simply allows others to expand upon their passions and interest. Again, you may find something in common with their interests, and this could lead to further discussion about where your companies align and could connect in the future.
  • For further resources, see an article from the website Entrepreneur, which lends the simple yet valuable advice to “just ask questions” when making small talk. Fast Company also suggests five great questions to ask when engaging in small talk.

Small talk isn’t just about talking
Though it sounds counter-intuitive, small talk isn’t just about talking! It’s also about being open, inviting, and ready to engage – through body language and the ability to work a room.

  • When at a networking event or cocktail party, refrain from staying in one corner of the room or only seeking out familiar faces. You will never make small talk if you refuse to approach others! Walk around the room – and be sure to check your posture, stance, and eye contact while doing so.
  • With your body language, show that you are open to making new connections. Above all, smile! A friendly face invites introductions and conversation.
  • Our previous blog post on Working A Room can provide you with even more tips on how to jump into a networking session with ease.

How do I learn more?
Small talk is a key component of the Interpersonal Communication Skills module in our upcoming Advanced Executive Presence Seminar for C-Suite Leaders. We are very excited to launch this two-day training on May 27 and 28, specifically designed for executives at the C-suite level and covering all seven modules of our Executive Presence training. If you are interested in mastering the art of small talk – and many more factors contributing to your Executive Presence – please contact us.

How Business Etiquette Contributes to Engaged Workplaces

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Recently, The Globe and Mail released a report on the 50 most engaged workplaces in Canada. Engagement in the workplace, which, according to The Globe and Mail, is defined by “employees’ passion for their work and commitment to the company’s vision,” holds significant influence on a company’s success on so many levels: employee retention, customer relations and the ability to deliver on objectives, among countless others.

Business etiquette undeniably is a part of what creates an engaged workplace. The judging panel for this award evaluated companies based on the following eight elements: communication, leadership, culture, rewards and recognition, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, vision and values, and corporate and social responsibility. How is business etiquette integral in certain elements of this criteria?

Communication
Business communication takes many forms: from internal to external, interpersonal to technological, everyday exchanges to larger issues management. For a business to be successful, all channels of communication must run smoothly, and business etiquette can facilitate this success.

  • Technological Communication ranges from email, texting, phone calls, voicemail, or conference calls – any form of communication that is not face-to-face. When you think about how often you use tech-based communication every day, mastering the nuances of these forms of communication – such as how to introduce yourself on a conference call or how to compose a respectful email in a difficult situation – becomes essential.
  •  Interpersonal Communication also can occur in various situations: casual meetings between colleagues, an important client or partner dinner, or a networking event. A gauge on properly handling communication in any one of these contexts is crucial to making professional connections.

Professional and Personal Growth
A company that provides its employees with the potential for growth and development is certainly on a path to success. Opportunities like seminars, trainings, lunch-and-learn sessions, or individual consulting can make a world of difference in an employee’s performance.

When business etiquette, professional image or executive presence are addressed in these contexts, an individual becomes more confident and self-aware, while simultaneously contributing the benefits and strengths of their newly sharpened traits to the rest of the team. Corporate Class Inc. provides a Executive Presence System, includes six core modules: interpersonal communication skills, techno-communication skills, workplace etiquette and best practices, presentation skills, business dress and executive dining skills.
Culture
A harmonious workplace culture functions on the respect that employees have for their colleagues, their company and for themselves. This respect is made manifest through good workplace etiquette – in essence, a necessary standard for how employees treat one another.

It’s no wonder that business etiquette and professional development are key to a company’s success – simply look no further than the role of business etiquette in the elements that define Canada’s top 50 most engaged companies!

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Why Engaged Listening Matters in Business

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In a humorous and insightful essay in last weekend’s issue of the Globe and Mail, Katrina Onstad analyzes today’s growing disappearance of eye contact, which she cites as “the most potent tool of body language.” This essay struck a note with me, particularly because eye contact is so critical for effective communication and engagement in business, not just in social life. Likewise, knowledge of how to use devices respectfully, especially smart phones, is also very important – and, as Onstad notes, is a central reason for the current absence of eye contact and therefore engaged communication. Her concept, put in a business perspective, could help you keep on top of your game in business communication.

 

Engaged Speaking and Listening

As we have shared in another recent blog post on body language tips, body language can help to make or break your career. And as eye contact is a significant component of body language, it certainly carries weight in your career-related interactions.

In one-on-one situations, eye contact demonstrates to the other person in the conversation that you are interested in what they have to say. As your posture and gestures can reflect boredom or disengagement, a lack of eye contact will make this painfully obvious. As you will see in my earlier post, if what you say is not congruent with your body language, then people will believe your body language and not your words.

Eye contact is necessary during individual conversations. A less obvious context but equally as important for good eye contact is during public speaking or talking to a group. Effective public speakers scan the audience during a talk, maintaining eye contact with listeners in the crowd. When up onstage, keep in mind not to focus on one person the whole time, but move your eyes throughout the crowd. This will make the listeners feel like you are speaking directly to them as individuals, and will keep them engaged throughout the duration of your speech.

Likewise, even in a more casual context of a group or staff meeting, be sure to allow your eyes to move from person to person. Again, this will create the effect that you are speaking to them instead of at them.

 

Focus on the Conversation

Another component of Onstad’s essay that is both inseparable and foundational to her argument for sustaining eye contact is the argument that our devices – most notably, our cell phones – are making us less engaged with those around us. This concept is also important to keep in mind in a business setting, whether we are interacting on a daily basis with a colleague or trying to impress a client.

 

Cell Phones in Meetings

Often in day-to-day meetings, it is considered acceptable to have a smart phone or laptop present, as the rest of the workday continues and people need to keep on top of their tasks and emails. Nevertheless, try to check emails minimally, and don’t have a phone sitting right in front of you – or else you will be tempted to pick it up every time you receive an email. In doing so, you will be removing yourself from the discussion or blatantly disregarding what someone is saying.

It is for this reason that many companies have established a “no devices” policy during certain meetings, notably during staff meetings that occur only once per week or month. Otherwise, members present risk being distracted by other work.

During important and less frequent meetings, such as those with external clients or guests, no devices should be present. Keeping preoccupied with one would not only reflect poorly on you, but also on your company. If your ringer goes off during such a meeting, turn off the phone without checking to see who is calling and apologize after the meeting.

Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

Though phones and other devices are often acceptable in meetings, it is never appropriate to keep one on the table (or on your lap) during a meal. Again, if you are out on a business lunch with a client or a company guest, bad business etiquette becomes a poor representation of your company.

While cell phones on the dinner table are inappropriate, it is equally unacceptable to try to use a phone discreetly – due to the reality that it simply won’t be discreet. In her essay, Onstad describes a situation that happens all too frequently:

You are mid-sentence and suddenly the listener’s eyes slide southward to her own hand or the table or her lap. Whether she glances back immediately or – and this hurts – begins pecking away at whatever device proved more important than the final part of your sentence, the moment of connection that came before has snapped like a twig.

In business, moments like these are not only rude, but they can also be destructive to your credibility.

In daily life, remembering to put down our devices and make eye contact is important if we want to actively engage with our surroundings and with the people around us. In business, doing just that is crucial to effective communication, to displaying the best level of professionalism, and ultimately to advancing your career.

 

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How to Make the Most of a Conference

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I recently returned from a conference in Orlando.  I went along with 120 Canadian delegates, all members of WEConnect Canada, an organization dedicated to the certification and support of women-owned businesses. The conference was an exciting and robust exchange of information, ideas and contacts – a valuable experience indeed for women of various expertise and backgrounds in entrepreneurship and business. As most conferences go, such a vast amount of content in such a short period of time requires a lots of planning and strategy in order to make the most of the fulfilling time there. A few tips can help to get you in the right mindset and can keep you focused during the conference itself, enabling the most “takeaways” from a conference rich in content. These tips can be applied to conferences of any topic or theme.

 

Come prepared.

Before you even travel to the conference location, review the schedule beforehand. If you have a choice between simultaneous workshops, research and read about both the speakers and the topics, so that you can attend the talks that you know would best fit your interests and your work.

The schedule will also provide insights as to what you should wear.  If you are not certain of the dress code, ask.  And please err on the more formal side: even if the program recommends casual dress, as the conference may take place in a warm climate or involve lots of walking, remember that you are there to do business and you must make a good first impression.

If the conference offers an accompanying trade show, reading about organizations with booth displays as well as reviewing the trade show floor map in advance can save a significant amount of time. Instead of wandering through the show, scanning the booths and deciding which ones to visit, you can head straight to the ones that you are interested in and would like to engage with. Otherwise, the sea of booths can prove overwhelming if you spend most of your time simply processing who is represented.

Another tip: have some questions ready for the organizations or vendors you are certain you want to visit at the trade show.

 

Take time to reflect after each panel discussion or speech.

Following each informative talk or discussion, take just a few minutes to reflect on what you heard. What was the key message? What were one or two important points that you learned? What can you apply to your own professional growth, or the development of your company? Write these reflections down between the sessions or during breaks. With so much information exchange at a conference, even brief moments of reflection are necessary for internalization and retention of information.

Even if you are scheduled to attend back-to-back sessions, think about these points during your walk between venues. Take time at the end of the day to process and write down takeaways from each unique talk.

 

Actively network, both during the conference and on “off-time.”

Conferences are well known to be great networking opportunities. But don’t limit networking to simply acquiring a stack of business cards without making legitimate connections and lasting impressions. If you meet people that could be really valuable contacts, be sure to connect with them during time you set aside to chat one-on-one, not just a brief conversation between sessions or a networking cocktail.

According to the creative professional think tank Behance, “many frequent conference-goers claim that their greatest conference experiences happened in the ‘downtime,’” when they truly had a chance to sit down and discuss with peers from around the world whom they otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to meet.

 

Follow up with key contacts – ASAP.

Don’t leave getting in touch with fellow conference participants as a “to-do” that will sit on your desk until you have time to get around to it in a few weeks. It’s crucial to follow up with important contacts shortly after you meet them: firstly, so that they don’t forget who you are, and secondly, so that they are aware that you value them as a connection since you have promptly reached out to them.

Be sure to call or email key contacts within a few days of returning to the office – you never know what kind of opportunity could arise from their connection. Another point to stress is to follow up on any and all promises you made, whether it is to connect people, send the title of a book or share a recipe. Follow through with your commitments, big or small.

Conferences can provide excellent spaces for development and can facilitate valuable relationships. Attending with even a minimal strategy in mind will help you gain the most a conference has to offer.

 

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Protect (and Polish!) Your Online Presence

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“If I post on my personal social media site, my boss won’t see it, right?” Wrong. If your name and face is somewhere on the Internet, anyone and everyone will be able to access it. There are countless situations in which an inappropriate posting, email, comment or photo has backfired on someone and they have lost a job opportunity or gotten in serious trouble because of it. Don’t let this happen to you: protect your online reputation. And, while you’re at it, take extra steps to polish your online presence – because, inevitably, a professional connection will find you on the Internet.


Survey what’s already out there.
The first step is to find out what already exists, and how easily searchable this information is. Google your name – and check out both the web search and the image search. You may come across old information or photos that you didn’t even know still existed, and will give you a sense of what needs to be cleaned up. It will also show you what appears first in a search. Making sure your search results reveal professional behaviour is crucial: according to this Mashable infographic, 78% of recruiters check search engines to find out more about potential employees.


Adjust your Facebook privacy settings and monitor what you share.
Never, ever post any inappropriate photos or status updates on Facebook – especially those referring to illicit behaviour. This is one of the most destructive things you can do to your online reputation.

Even if you’re grown up enough now to post judiciously, there may be some unflattering photos from university days still floating around on your Facebook page. In this case, set your privacy settings so that only you or certain close friends can view your photos (even colleagues can be Facebook “friends,” so don’t be misled by clicking “friends only” viewing). This is also a good idea for future protection; after all, friends won’t ask your permission to post every photo of you that they upload on Facebook.


Tweet positively.
Whereas photos are the key representation of you on Facebook, your words are what really matter on Twitter. Again, any inappropriate language or illicit content in tweets are a definite no. Also, even if your tweets are clean, try to maintain a positive attitude in what you post. If a potential boss sees a string of complaints on your Twitter feed, they might assume you’ll bring a negative attitude into the workplace, too.


Emails aren’t private.
Any email communications you have with colleagues should be kept strictly professional.  Remember, anything that you write can be forwarded to the wrong person with the click of a button – confidentiality disclaimers aside. If the content of your email is inappropriate – for example, gossip about another co-worker or complaints about a boss – this can lead to some very awkward situations. If you encounter a situation that would merit a complaint about someone, skip the email entirely and address the problem directly with the appropriate person.


Focus on your LinkedIn profile.
Work on polishing your LinkedIn profile. This is a professional social networking site, which means it is guaranteed (and encouraged) that business contacts will be viewing it. Make sure your work history, current position, marketable skills and personal information are up to date. The more active your LinkedIn profile, the more likely it is to climb to the top of a search engine’s results list. And that’s the kind of information you want an employer to see.

 

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