Employer Branding Talent Acquisition

The Importance of Setting Online Boundaries

The online and offline worlds have blended in to each other, which is not always a great outcome for people seeking to maintain a clear separation between personal and professional lives!

For generations past, it was simple. Do not mix your personal and professional lives. The combination of such could impact how you were perceived by others at work, how your manager treated you and the level of respect others held for you in the office.

Now, with the online world being so heavily utilised for communication, the ability to connect with your manager on Facebook may be all too desirable. Doesn’t it mean if we are friends on Facebook, they just want to be my friend? If we are friends, surely then they will respect me at work, right?


Bringing your professional and personal lives together can be a dangerous blend with severe implications on your career success. Friendships online are rarely as solid, or reliable, as your friendships offline. Take for example 2 sales professionals; friends online whilst they were employed together, then friends offline. One sales friend posts about a really exciting new opportunity they are getting with a client. Not so reliable friend online sees this, knows the client in question, and works their way in to the business; winning the account over the first individual.

Although this is not a reflection of a true story for anyone close to me, I have heard of it happening. And this truly represents risks beyond simple concerns relating to ‘who saw the photo of you online from Saturday night?’. Ultimately, blending your personal and professional lives, both online and offline, is still something that should be considered with great focus. Tips for (not) connecting:

Don’t invite ALL work colleagues into your private online network!

There is a great deal of focus on social media representing our relationships, or the strength that these relationships may have. For this reason, many individuals believe that by connecting with colleagues as well as friends on personal social media sites shows that they are respected and appreciated at work. This however opens them up to having others see what it is that they are doing outside of work hours, what people in their network are doing and their personal situation that really doesn’t belong in a corporate setting. To avoid issues, it is best to not invite your work colleagues in to your private online network unless they are someone that you socialise with extensively outside of work (and can call a trusted friend).

Do not allow others to post images or photos of you online

The minute you lose control of what images are posted of you online is the moment that you run the risk of your brand being discredited. Controlling how you are seen online is extremely important and this is best achieved by ensuring that you know at all times what images of you are appearing online. Managing this can be done through regular google searches of your name and requiring approval on your Facebook page before tagged pictures appear on your wall.

Use an alternative/abbreviated name on your personal online accounts

It is a requirement of the social media sites that you do represent yourself online and that your profile is legitimate. This does include the importance of having your name in your profile. However, many people have abbreviations of their name that only their family and friends know them by. Creating your profile in this name will ensure that you have greater control over who you are actually connecting with online. It also will make it harder for others to find your profile if they are using this as part of a character reference check in a recruitment process.

Maintain a strong understanding of what is professional and what is personal

Professional and personal worlds must remain segregated. By knowing what is part of your personal life is and what is part of your professional life, you can achieve this. Many people feel the need in the current digital world to bring the 2 together but this is not always beneficial. Knowing where to set boundaries on behaviours and activities that are personal and professional is extremely important to maintain a strong professional brand.

Respect the importance of professional relationships

Professional relationships and professional networks are extremely beneficial in everyone’s career. They can however be impacted greatly if they feel that your intentions are not as professional as theirs, or that the way they represent and manage their own brand counteracts what they wish to achieve in their own career. Professional relationships could be the key to your success; for this reason, respect the importance of them and keep them professional.

The level of engagement and connection available between all individuals today is both a risk and an opportunity. Like all risk management strategies, you need to be aware of what could go wrong and plan for the worst; when you have this level of awareness then you will be able to more effectively manage the situation if it arises.

By Rebecca Fraser

Rebecca Fraser is a Leader of learning and development for organisations and individuals. She is highly recognised for her contribution to the industry and for her work in the media providing information on modern day job search strategies. She is the author of ‘How to get a job in the 21st century’, her newest release on job search and resumes.