Dos and Don’ts for Maintaining a Professional Appearance on Social Media

Fair or unfair, society tends to hold individuals in “helping” professions to a higher standard in comparison with those working in other professions. This often includes teachers, nurses, and any other career in which you are directly caring for others. These days, social media can help jumpstart a career, but it can also cause significant damage to an individual’s reputation, even with just one misinterpreted post.

While it may seem like your posts are private, anything published to the Internet can be circulated in some way, so it’s important to be careful with what you choose to share, whether the account is personal or professional. The following dos and don’ts can help you make good decisions toward maintaining a professional online presence: 


1. Use professional websites to broadcast your skills

Social media use can be incredibly positive for your job search. Nowadays, people usually find and apply for jobs using the Internet. Websites like LinkedIn can be wonderful for searching for a job and for keeping a digital resume/record of your skills and accomplishments. 

LinkedIn also provides for opportunities to network with other professionals in the field, and you can even follow topics of interest. You can search for jobs and connect with others who may have interests that are similar to yours. Be sure to keep your professional profiles up-to-date, and only use profile pictures that are clean and professional. 

2. Google yourself

Most of us did this when we were teenagers, but it is a good idea to Google yourself every once in a while to see what comes up under your name. This can give you a better idea of what a potential employer may see if they choose to search for you online. 

Googling yourself is a good way to check in and remove and posts or images you may not want your employer (or future employer) to see. Although it isn’t fool-proof (as anything on the Internet can be duplicated and shared), you can at least try to regulate the first few things that come up when someone searches your name. Be sure to also check Google Images to see what pictures come up when people search for you.

3. Think before you post

Your private Facebook or Instagram is a representation of you. Be careful about posting vulgar, inappropriate, or unbecoming images or comments that you wouldn’t want an employer to see. Unfortunately, having privacy settings is not fool proof, as someone on your “friends” list could screenshot this information and share it with others.

To be on the safe side, I recommend really thinking about your posts before you make them. It’s best to assume that anyone can see what you post, so be very mindful. Do not use foul language or make inappropriate jokes that could be offensive to others. It is hard to portray a particular tone in writing, and readers may not take what you say with your intended meaning. 

4. Consider having multiple accounts

One way to separate your professional life from your personal life is to have more than one social media account, with one for career-related posts and another for connecting with friends and family. If you choose to do so, be sure to remember that people in your professional life may be able to see what you post on your personal page, so be mindful of what you post, regardless of which account you are using. 


1. Refer to your place of work on your accounts

While listing your workplace is a great idea for a professional LinkedIn account, be careful about referring to your employer on personal social accounts, especially if you have anything other than wonderful things to say. Employers do not take kindly to employees who post negative comments about their companies online, and it is easy to search in employee records to verify that you actually work there.

If you need to file an actual complaint about your employer, I recommend going through the compliance hotline. This can be done anonymously, and the company will likely be required to follow up with the complaint. 

2. Share any patient information

Sharing patient information with others is a violation of HIPPA, and it’s taken very seriously. Private health information needs to be kept private, and there is no excuse for violating this universal rule. Even within the actual hospital, it is against regulations to look at medical charts of patients who are not under your care, and you are only to utilize chart information that is relevant to your work with the patient. 

3. Use social media on your work Internet connection

We all know we aren’t really supposed to be using social media at work, but it can be tempting to check your Instagram when you have a few moments of downtime. If you choose to engage in social media at work, I recommend not using the hospital or office’s Internet connection. This connection is unlikely to be private, and accidentally clicking on something inappropriate could flag you in the system.

4. Badmouth coworkers 

Badmouthing coworkers, in general, creates a bad look. Posting something online that badmouths coworkers can cause unnecessary tension within the workplace. Remember, anything you post online can be screenshotted and shared, so it is public and permanent, even if you have privacy settings in place. It’s best to keep negative thoughts about the people you work with to yourself, and if you need to file a complaint, do so according to the policies of your place of work. 

Social media has many pros and cons, in general, and it can be a great medium for pushing your career forward, maintaining contact with friends and family, and learning more about areas of personal and professional interest. A great rule of thumb is to be careful with all of the images and comments you post online, and post under the assumption that your employer could potentially see this information. 

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