Is your online reputation helping or hindering your next career move?

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Simon Wright
Managing director
CareersinAudit.com
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What you say and how you say it can have a long-lasting digital trail. Careers in Audit’s Simon Wright advises how accountants can manage their online reputation.

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Putting it in stark terms, what you say online and or via social media can make or break you. It can build or tarnish your reputation – not only you personally but the people around you and those who you work for – whether you work in practice or industry.

But there is no escaping social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn and the potential impact they could have on your online reputation.

Managing your online reputation in the right way will go a long way to ensure you give exactly the right impression to your current employer, future employer and existing and potential clients.

Play it the wrong way and you could miss out on a great job offer, lose a client or get yourself fired.

Make sure you have a profile

Far be it for me to scare the accountancy profession off using online tools and maintaining online profiles – as the owner of a digital job board, I whole-heartedly believe in all things online and believe we should embrace all opportunities that arise from these types of media. So, I am keen to stress it’s important that you have a profile online.

How many of you have ever Googled a name or a company name before a meeting or interview? The chances are quite high that you have done so in the past. Likewise, it may not surprise you that existing bosses, potential recruiters, employers and clients will be doing exactly the same before they consider contacting you or meeting you.

Do consider whether your online profile presents you in the right way and you are ‘selling’ all of your greatest achievements succinctly on, say, LinkedIn, which is one of the most popular professional platforms searched when looking for new staff.

Maybe take a fresh look at your existing online profiles to ensure the information reflects all of your up-to-date expertise and experience – post any articles or white papers you may have written or conferences/panel discussions you have recently spoken at.

Try and take a step back and imagine what would the person would think if they read your profile and fill in any missing gaps to ensure anyone viewing your profile gets a true reflection of the professional you.

Choose a photo that is professional. If you can, invest in a professional headshot. Also, beware of commenting on other people’s appearance/headshots on LinkedIn – some may remember the media storm which arose when a solicitor commented on a barrister contact’s attractive picture. Keep things professional.

Beware of the blurred lines of work and personal brand

Everyone is entitled to life outside the workplace. However, do be aware that the lines between your professional and personal brand online are increasingly blurred. It is becoming harder to have a truly private ‘you’ online.

Be mindful about your professional position and accept that much of what we share online (even if this is on seemingly private app) can be made public to more than close friends and family. This may be fine if you are trying to promote something positive (particularly for you and your company).

However, on the flip side, this isn’t just about the potential damage it could do to you but potentially the company you work for.

Before posting anything online, ask yourself ‘is there anything that could be deemed discriminatory (race, religion, disability, gender, politics, pregnancy or age)?’

You may feel passionate about a particular political or current affairs issue, but unless you are working as a columnist for a publication, your views are best contained behind closed doors or around the kitchen table with family and or friends. 

High flying business executives have lost their jobs and their reputation remains in tatters all because they didn’t consider the impact of a ‘shoot from the hip’ comment written in less than 30 seconds.

On the same lines, people often post something provocative as they are publicity seeking and want to raise their profile. Don’t feel compelled to get into an open discussion.

And it can't be stressed enough: be very careful with humour. Banter or a jovial comment when communicated across social media can be misinterpreted or come across downright offensive. Even comedians like Frankie Boyle can be hauled up so no-one is immune and that includes accountants.

The importance of privacy settings

Pictures of your debauched stag/hen night posted on social media or even a fun office party, may be regarded as simply fun memories to you and the rest of the party but it may not send out the right messages to your employer or existing, potential clients – which is why it’s important to check your privacy settings are firmly switched on.

Be aware you may need to update your settings if you switch to say a new phone or other electronic devices.

Finally, it’s worth noting that some apps regularly share information with other websites or apps. So, in your next coffee break, do yourself a favour and check all the right settings are in place and your online reputation continues to remain intact.

About Simon Wright

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30th Nov 2018 10:37

I have to say that I fundamentally disagree with your premise that "it is necessary to have a profile".

Such a "profile" is, for the first part, the first ch i nk in your armour against scammers and worse. The security of these things is, in general, beyond abyssmal.

I may be a dinosaur, but I have watched the development of the Internet since I was involved in ARPANet and in the long term I can see only unkillable dragons and monsters in what you suggest.

As in most walks of life it is probably better to "say nothing at all".

Thanks (4)
to dgilmour51
30th Nov 2018 11:31

[quote=dgilmour51]

I have to say that I fundamentally disagree with your premise that "it is necessary to have a profile".

Such a "profile" is, for the first part, the first ch i nk in your armour against scammers and worse. The security of these things is, in general, beyond abyssmal.

I totally disagree with what you have said above. If people Google you and you cannot be found then this immediately puts doubt about you in someone's mind. The world has changed and you have to be Googleable. At least if you create a profile you can craft it how you want to. If others speak about you, you have no control.

Thanks (1)
to Amanda C Watts
30th Nov 2018 15:53

Is "Googleable" an actual word.

If so, I must use it more often.

Thanks (0)
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to Amanda C Watts
07th Dec 2018 10:46

Have no online presence and would not want any new clients from such a presence.
Could not give a "flying fox" as to whether I am Googleable or not
Only take new clients on by recommendation and then only if I like them.
Took on perhaps two or three new clients in the last eight years, but have got rid of a fair few.

Thanks (4)
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30th Nov 2018 11:32

Balderdash

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30th Nov 2018 12:20

I guess I'm lucky in that I've reached the stage where I could care less about what others think about me or what they think they learn about me from my 'social media' profile. I am quite opinionated and not very PC. I am also very good at what I do and having a strong personality certainly helps in dealing with HMRC enquiries and investigations.

It's equally possible to create entirely fake persona on these media to fool any prospective employers, etc into believing something that isn't true. Just refer to any program about online dating, scamming, catfishing, etc to see how easy it is and how hard it is to detect.

If people look at these things and try and judge you, then maybe they aren't the sort of people you want to work for anyway!

Rule of thumb: believe nothing you see or hear on social media, everything can be clipped, altered, amended, dubbed over or completely faked, unless you are 100% sure about the source.

Other rule: EVERYTHING on any social media platform, sharing site, etc that you have ever shared, commented on or posted including holiday snaps, candid snaps, sexting, and media you thought was private can potentially be seen by everyone. There is no such thing as complete cyber security.

Thanks (2)
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By KateR
07th Dec 2018 10:12

Many years ago I had a call from a prospective client who said that I had been recommended by an existing client. When I replied 'no' to the question 'do you have a website' he asked how he was to know if I was any good or not. I told him to stop wasting my time - the fact that I had been recommended should have given him the answer. Coming forward in time I now have a website - most of the contact is from people who want to improve my ranking. I don't want to improve it, I have more than enough work from client recommendations and am currently turning down new client requests.

Thanks (3)
07th Dec 2018 10:08

If you've arrived at this article expecting the naughty accountant podcast please head here: https://soundcloud.com/accountingwebuk/no-accounting-for-taste-ep28-naug...

Unfortunately a wrong link was posted in this morning's Insider email bulletin.

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