“What You Share and What You Don’t”
The goal of this post is to protect you against yourself and others’ perceptions. Perception is reality, especially in the college and corporate world. Ensuring what people know and perceive about you can be just as important as how well you do your job. You will learn how to avoid the things that can sideline you, set you back, or slow your progression to a crawl instead of moving forward at an accelerated pace.
You are on your way to building your career. One of the essential parts of building a successful career (or life for that matter) is building relationships. If you want to advance in college or at work, you can make the road to the top a lot smoother with the quality of relationships you build. Like it or not, how others perceive you can be as much a help as a hindrance.
I am what I am and what you perceive me to be.
When you enter college or just start a new job, no one knows anything about you. You are starting with a clean slate. You can begin anew and build a solid foundation of respect and relationships with your peers. Developing these relationships over time and keeping a two-way communication can pay dividends throughout your life. When I hired a new employee, of course, I wanted to know as much as I could about that person. After all, I was paying them to work and do a great job. I was trusting them to add value to our organization and make our company money. I have found that there are three general types of people in the college or work environment regarding how much information they share with others about their personal life.
The first type of person will tell you everything about them on the first day you meet them. They will give up their deepest, darkest secrets right of the bat. Most of the time, this person uses the over-sharing of information to develop a rapport quickly. They are looking to build trust by sharing every aspect of their lives. This is a double-edged sword. On one side of the sword, you create a quick and deep relationship with one or two people. A relationship develops because you divulge in-depth personal information quickly, and because of this, you are perceived as trustworthy. On the other side, sharing so much can provide others with so much information about you, they usually will interpret it in a way other than the way you expected. Unfortunately, this is human nature.
The third type of person shares nothing at all, ever. If it does not pertain to work, it is not discussed. While this may seem extreme, you can be very personable and not share personal information. A fellow senior manager I worked with was always talking with others around the office, but it was never personal. It was about the lunch specials at the local deli, or how the parking deck was so jammed up, everything else but personal information. I later realized that just like public domain photos, he only talked about topics “in the public domain,” or to put it another way: non-personal issues about the work environment.
What you need to know is that after decades of living, working, hiring, and firing people, I have looked back and realized something interesting. The people I have promoted the fastest were those who were a combination of the second and third types. We had built mutual respect based on the quality of their work. My opinion was never clouded with perceptions of them outside the office. The lesson here is, work needs to stay work, and personal life needs to remain private.
Here are five tips I picked up over the years you should employ while being a hybrid of person two and three: 1) When “sharing” with others, keep your swearing at a PG-13 rating. Swearing excessively just makes you appear unprofessional and classless. 2) Never criticize anyone in a public space, have a private discussion, and gain respect and reciprocity for it. 3) Never talk about politics, religion, or money. No good will ever come from it, even if everyone agrees with you. Make a quick exit from any conversation that turns in that direction. 4) Do not discuss dating or relationships. As soon as you have a bad day, people will try to tie that to some relationship issues. Don’t do it. 5) Lastly, keep everything general. If someone asks what you did over the weekend, you hung out with friends and saw a movie, do not give a lot of detail.
At the beginning of this article, I talked about people not knowing you at all. Well, that may not always be the case. It all depends on how much of a digital trail you have left for others to discover. Just like sharing too much verbally, you can do just as much damage in the digital world.
The first thing you need to do when heading off to college or a new job is to make every social profile private. Also, change your profile picture to something professional. Do not use a cartoon image or a photo of you at the beach. A simple headshot you would be okay with hanging on the wall during your next job interview. Protecting yourself against false perceptions begin with a professional profile picture in business casual attire.
The only social media platform you accept “friend” requests from is LinkedIn. This is your professional profile; it is the place you will make connections and develop relationships. If your school or work requires you to have another social network for communication and disseminate information, create a new profile specifically for that purpose. Use your work or school email address to do that.
You should not allow people with whom you are building a professional relationship to see the details of your home life as displayed on social media. That is what LinkedIn is for, and believe me, whenever I had to deal with an issue between two employees or two students I was mentoring, it surprisingly originated from personal stuff they shared on social media. Lock your accounts down now, review and revise your LinkedIn profile, and keep the “Weekend at Bernies” photos off the internet.
Water Cooler, Study Hall, and Public Areas
Throughout your college and professional life, there will be plenty of time to socialize. Keeping in mind the first half of this article and the things I have discussed, here are additional guidelines that can keep you out of trouble when you are around the water cooler, in a study hall, or public areas.
In locations like these, conversations can turn to less formal topics. Sports, news, and entertainment are just some of the issues discussed in a more relaxed environment. Always be on the lookout for people who want to turn a fun conversation into a negative one. Negative people will always look for others to agree with their pessimistic comments. Change the subject or have the courage to stop it cold with positive feedback about the same topic. You do not want to be known as part of the group of people who are always complaining.
Always be a positive and optimistic person in a conversation. You will be amazed at how the moods and comments of others can be swayed and influenced by a smile and compliment. Be the glass half full always. You will build a reputation around that, and people will naturally want to be around you. Besides, nothing gets accomplished by complaining. If it is bad enough to talk about, you should make whatever it is better.
If you find yourself in these “public” locations, you may need to spend more time working. Limiting your exposure to these time-killing situations is the best way to keep your progress moving positively. If you are “killing time” more than you think you should be, go read a book to improve yourself if only to better your vocabulary.
There is a time for everything. In college and the corporate world, there will be times to celebrate and cut loose. It can be as simple as marking the end of the week with close friends or co-workers. These can be significant and memorable times. But remember, the beginning of your professional life begins in college and the first years of your working life. Also, winning a plastic trophy for funneling ten beers at a bar will not garner the respect of your peers’ beyond closing time. Here are the ways you can have a great time blowing off some steam while preserving your integrity, respect, and keeping you away from making bad choices.
If you must drink, pace your consumption by alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. A seltzer or cola with lime has the appearance of a mixed drink. Plus, the discount cost of soft drinks will help you stretch your funds further. Eat while drinking. These times are for positively building relationships; if you are hammered, you may not remember what you said or did, and what is worse is others will remember. Your goal should be to have fun, not to get wasted in public. The worst lull in my career was the two years after I got so drunk at an office party that a Senior VP had to put me in a taxi and help me into my mother’s house at three in the morning because she was my emergency contact. That took two solid years, and lots of staff turnover before people started forgetting about “Sloshed Scott.”
Lastly, a party should be an excellent time to be remembered. It does not matter if it is a college event, after work thing, or a party at someone’s place. You are at the beginning of your career, and you need to be present to absorb all the information you can to build the success you want. You can have a blast and preserve your reputation and identity at the same time.
So, we have discussed a lot of guidelines and rules. What should you do right now to put some of these things into action so you can build the success you envision in your head? First thing: take the information discussed today and audit your social media profiles. Lock them down and update your profile photos. Never accept followers or friends into your private accounts from people at your college or work. Direct those requests to LinkedIn.
With regards to LinkedIn, information is abundant out there about how to create a great LinkedIn profile. Google it and get working on your profile. Your LinkedIn profile may be the first and last place for a future employer to get information about you so that it will be as awesome as you. Also, get someone to proofread your profile page.
Do these things, and you will be on the fast-track to success.
We Are Here To Help
The goal of GetAGoodStart.com is to share the knowledge of over thirty years of experience to help set the foundation and prepare you for the professional world post-college, no matter if it is in the “typical” corporate environment or a virtual workspace. I have designed these courses to help you to accelerate and achieve success faster than your peers. Putting the information into practice consistently can assist you in building a reputation that speaks to your competency and ability to succeed.