Let’s face it – social media has changed the way we operate. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have turned into the virtual scrapbooks highlighting the in’s and out’s of our daily lives. The problem is the audience. We tend to think of our audience as an extension of our inner circle, and social media has become a way to communicate life events with those near and dear to you. However, our social media reaches far beyond just our semi-private inner circle. It reaches acquaintances, coworkers, bosses, and even people we haven’t met in person. Gone are the days when first impressions are made with a handshake. Nowadays, our social media is the cover of the book of who we are, and it is on display for the masses to see.
When it comes to working with children, in some cases, you are held to an even higher standard than you might be in other industries. You are role models, examples, people to look up to – and you have to ensure that what you display on social media reflects that. Your social media profiles can help you land or keep your dream job, but they can also shut the door on that opportunity just as quickly. Your photos, comments, the content you share, the opinions you express – these are all things that can be potentially scrutinized by future or current employers. Whether you like it or not, social media is considered a direct reflection of who you are as an individual to those who do not know you personally.
As professional matchmakers, we have found that maintaining a professional and ‘clean’ image online is just as important as how you present in-person. This includes logging out of your accounts and searching yourself to make sure that everything you think is private, actually is private. Sometimes, one small setting can allow for that wild weekend in Cabo to be seen by others because your friend’s sister posted selfies and tagged you. Use keywords in your search, like “college party,” “bar,” and “relationship.” You might be surprised that these tags may pull up entirely different photos than just a standard search. You may be shocked as to what is out there! Not all of it is in your control, but if it’s out there, you need to have an answer prepared if you are asked about it.
The key is to be consistent and thorough. We know of a nanny who lost a job because of her self-description on her Etsy account. Think of your complete and total online presence, not just the first that jump to mind. What’s on your Pinterest boards? Is that old MySpace account still up? Did you post a YouTube video five years ago and forget about it? Make sure you are the same professional, polished individual on all of your websites. Your LinkedIn profile should match what you are selling. You want to land or keep a job. Even if you have pursued acting in the past, take down those old headshots and get rid of the IMDB page. You want to make sure those you are interviewing with see you as 100% committed to your profession and by extension their children.
Finally, be mindful of the privacy of the children. You should never take or post images of your charges without the express permission of the parents. You should even avoid taking and posting photos in or around the home of your employer. Respecting privacy goes a long way. Along those same lines, privacy includes being mindful of the stories you share online. Even when you leave out names, you never know who is reading what you are putting out there and it doesn’t take much digging by a skilled person to connect the dots. Turn off your location features during work hours – never tag yourself with your whereabouts during work hours. You are needless putting yourself and the children at risk, even if it is just a photo of yourself. It is impossible to know who is out there watching.
When in doubt, consider this your rule of thumb – would you be willing to say or share this information with your grandmother? If not, maybe you need to reconsider posting it. You need to think of yourself as a public figure, one whose every move could come back to haunt you one day. If you share something on a nanny forum, be certain you would be comfortable with your employer reading it. There is something to be said about not putting things in writing – you never know when it will find its way into the wrong hands! Not only do you want to protect your relationship, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings based on a momentary lapse in judgement.
Long story short, your overall online presence should be professional and something you can look back on in 10 years that doesn’t make you cringe. It is fun to share photos, stories, opinions and more with your social network, but remember that who you appear to be online is a direct reflection of who you actually are, and when it comes to being a professional, you should look, sound and appear that way even online.