What are you saying, and thinking, about your work and career?
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Of course, you can use this same method to divine what you think about your work and career, too. Much like an old-fashioned paper journal (which I still carry around, by the way) your social media stream captures your feelings, your thoughts, your disappointments every time you post a note to your friends or the world. This information can be a goldmine when it comes time to for the “hard thinking” I often mention in columns. Reviewing your social media streams can give you a clear indication of how you are doing in your career and whether you might need to make some major changes.
So, let’s begin to use your own words against you — or more hopefully — use your own words to make your work and career the one you deserve. First, you need to look at your social media streams as if they were coming from a close personal friend instead of yourself. It can be difficult to disassociate yourself from your own words, but it is worth a try. Think about how you would feel and respond if your best friend had written these posts on Facebook or Twitter. What would you think about them as a person, as a worker, as a careerist? What messages would call for response? Where could you help, guide, chide or support?
On the darker side, would you even want to be friends with a person who left similar messages? Sometimes we can present the worst side of our nature online without even thinking about it. Our social media streams become the repository of everything that stinks in our lives. We use it as a dumping ground to get it out of our head. Don’t fall victim to this common trap, though. If you feel you must present the bad with the good, seek out some balance between them. Your deepest, darkest secrets are probably best contained within private files on your own computer or in your paper journal. These areas are for you and you alone. There you can rant to your heart’s content, secure in the knowledge that you won’t be giving others a negative view of your life.
In my own streams I try to range between the extremes, never settling on one or the other. My goal, and I think an admirable goal for you too, is to present as well rounded a picture of life as possible. Few lives are unrelentingly good or bad and your online life should reflect that. We all have bad days. That is OK. In fact, we can even make these bad days useful. Rather than simply ranting about your life, consider asking for help. Putting a productive spin on your “grumbly days” is a great way of rising above them. It also allows others to see that you are not just wallowing in your despair, but actively trying to find ways to make your life better, even in the midst of conflict.
Finally, your friends both online and in real life can be a great source of assistance to you. Connect up with the people you trust most and ask them, directly, how they perceive your online personae. Do they laugh at your stories or are they worried that you might be having trouble in your life? Do they think you are hiding a wonderful part of your life instead of sharing that with others? How do they think you are appearing to the semi-strangers that might be following you? What are their favorite items in your stream? Are there items they think you might want to avoid posting to your streams? A fresh eye is always helpful when trying to review your own life and close friends are some of the best resources you have.
Think about what you are saying about your work and career in your social streams. There is much self-knowledge to be found there. Social media might seem ephemeral, but, like a paper journal, it leaves a trail that can be mined for deeper insight into your life, work and career. Make it a regular habit to dig through your streams and see what you turn up. I am guessing you will be pleasantly surprised and spurred to an even better career.