“Integrators” Get Ahead: Skillfully blending your online personal image and professional life

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You’ve surely heard the ominous and endless warnings about how reckless social media activity can jeopardize your job or throw a wrench into your career search. And, indeed, unflattering pictures from a late-night binge, profanity laced-tirades and off-color jokes can earn you a pink slip or rejection letter.

Yet more social media researchers and experts are beginning to emphasize the upside of a savvy and well-managed online image that complements your professional life, potentially strengthening your value as an employee and your marketability as a job candidate.

The people who do that skillfully are what Wharton School of Business researcher Nancy Rothbard has now termed “Integrators.”  Rothbard defines an Integrator as someone who successfully blends his or her personal online image and professional in-person image. In a study she is currently working on, Rothbard found that integrators are viewed as better performers in the workplace.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Rothbard explained that research indicates that consistent exchange of information – as long as it is deemed appropriate – leads people to develop stronger bonds with each other.  “If I share more with you, you like me better,” Rothbard told writer Lillian Cunningham. “And if you share more with me then I like you better. It’s a cycle.”

It’s a cycle that smart employees and job seekers can leverage and strategically use to their benefit over time. The key, experts agree, is to use social media in ways that present you as an engaging, thoughtful and likeable person who has a clear awareness that in the new cyber world the lines between personal and professional have become intertwined.

While the growing focus by employers on social media use can and should give you pause about what you post, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop commenting on what you are passionate about. It just requires tact, and a consistent level of professionalism and common sense.

Building on this concept, social media expert Jason Seiden trademarked the term “Profersonal.” Seiden writes and speaks about building a Profersonal brand that effectively blends personal online image with professional interests and pursuits.  In a recent presentation detailing Seiden’s approach, Melanie Batenchuk, a digital media professional from Washington DC-based Beekeeper Group, shared how her own personal interest in social media led to her building her own personal online community that seamlessly  integrates with her work.

Among her tips:

  • Too much of personal or professional can be a bad thing (create work-life balance in your social media as well).
  • Separate social media accounts isn’t the solution to saying whatever you want (While each social media channel is a unique forum, don’t assume a Facebook post won’t be shared outside your circle of friends).
  • When it comes to social media, its more about quality than quantity (Blasting endless posts is a turnoff).
  • Talk about what you know and love. (People respect passion and authenticity, both in person and online).
  •  Engaging online requires both initiative and responsibility.

The bottom line — don’t view your social media activity only as the potential enemy to professional growth or career advancement. Thinking like an “Integrator” can boost your career, not bury it.

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