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July 29, 2014 at 1:00 AM

How social media ‘overshares’ can scandalize your brand

Forty years ago this week, our nation witnessed the fallout from one of the greatest public “overshares” of the last century. On July 30, 1974, President Nixon reluctantly complied with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ordered the release of the “Watergate tapes,” revealing how his administration tried to cover up a 1972 burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. He resigned 10 days later.

The existence of a secret tape-recording system in the Oval Office seemed scandalous in the early 1970s. But today, virtually every aspect of our daily lives is digitally recorded, whether it’s via text message, Twitter feed, Facebook timeline or Instagram “selfies.” Not only is this data oversharing out in the open, it’s done voluntarily — some might say obsessively — by everyone from preteens to corporate CEOs.

But even in this age of hyper-intrusion, some overshares can have dire consequences for our careers. The following behaviors may not prevent you from being impeached, but they can limit the damage to your brand enough for a hiring manager to give you a full pardon.

Avoid rambling rants. It may be tempting to argue with Facebook friends or to write Nixonian screeds about companies or political enemies, but remember that your social media profiles are never as private as you think they are. According to a Challenger, Gray & Christmas study, 60 percent of hiring managers contacted said they check the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts of potential candidates, and nearly half said profane rants can have a significant impact on a candidate’s chances of getting a callback.

Keep tabs on your friends. In addition to your own words, the company you keep can also be a factor in being chosen. Using the privacy settings section on Facebook, turn on the “Timeline review” and “tag review” functions, which allow you to control who links your name to their posts and screen out offensive comments before they appear on your wall.

Accentuate the professional. These days, social media has become a junk heap for sharing banal opinions, vacation snapshots and toddler videos. Stand out from the crowd by maintaining a professional tone. Never bad-mouth former employers or describe yourself as “unemployed.” Share information that you want employers to see, such as your expertise in your chosen field. Follow your colleagues on Twitter and make relevant comments about the latest developments. Facebook already has enough cat photos to last for millennia.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at randywoods67@gmail.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: branding, etiquette, social media

Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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