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  • 10 Ways to Get Fired For Building Your Personal Brand

    For all of you employed readers, this post is directed at you because I wouldn’t want you to become unemployed, as you build your own personal brand. Branding has become very personal these days and the relationship we have with our companies is changing very fast, so I think it’s important to focus on what you shouldn’t do at work, not just branding and career strategies.  I view web 2.0 technologies at the driving force that converges our professional and social lives.  Who you are and how you behave outside of work can impact how you’re perceived inside of work and visa versa.  The way the world works now is that you have to spend more time thinking about your actions than you did ten years ago because words spread faster and they are accessible by everyone.

    10 Ways to Get Fired For Building Your Personal Brand

    1. Friending your manager on Facebook and then complaining about your job.

    At work, people are trying to connect with colleagues on social networks It’s a fact and part of human nature.  Sometimes, you feel that you’re friends with your co-workers and other times you may think that if you friend your boss or an executive, it may pose for a future career opportunity.  By using social networks strictly for professional use, then this is a good move, but the second (and I mean the second) you want to make it a social endeavor, that’s when the game changes.

    A recent survey by OfficeTeam indicated that 32% of executives are not comfortable at all being friended by their boss, and 33% weren’t comfortable being friended by people they manage or clients.  You want to get to know a person at work before you friend them or even ask them before you do, otherwise the work environment might be awkward for you and it might open you up to a world of misfortune.  Another survey by Proofpoint suggests that you better wise up on social networks, since 8% of people have been laid off in 2009 for bad behavior, which is double from 2008.

    Both Adam Ostrow (editor-in-chief of Mashable) and I feel that is one of the funniest social media bloopers around:

    2. Putting your personal brand in front of your company’s brand.

    This is still one of the hottest and most controversial topics around, so I feel that it deserves more attention.  A lot of people tweet while at work and don’t deny it please.  The only thing is that 80% of people are tweeting about themselves, not about their company’s, a report by two college professors at Rutgers states.  Companies, by nature, are looking to build their own brand, sometimes through the use of selectively chosen spokespeople who represent the brand and can be quoted within press articles (cited with the brand).  When you’re getting more attention than your company, you know something is wrong.  You’re not getting paid to be the Oprah of a company.  Instead, you’re being compensated based on the value you provide over time.  When you draw attention to your personal brand instead of your company’s, then your coworkers will get jealous, your manager will wonder why you aren’t getting your work done and you’ll eventually get fired.

    3. Complaining that your company blocks social networking sites.

    Company cultures are always different and have policies (some have social media policies for workers too).  Some block social networking sites, while others refrain because they know that people are doing work at home, so their employment contract is different.  Robert Half International found that 54% of companies prohibit use of social networking Web sites during work hours, including popular sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Another survey by ScanSafe, indicates that 20% more companies are blocking social networking sites and that 76% currently block them, which is much more than the Robert half survey.  Don’t complain that your company blocks these sites.  If you’re truly obsessed, why not access them from your mobile phone?  Otherwise, get fired and go somewhere else!

    Other companies realize the potential in good corporate web-citizens.  For example, eBillme offers training on how to use social networking sites to spread company information.

    4. Attracting the wrong attention to your company’s brand because of your own.

    Please don’t say that a blog disclaimer is going to disassociate your brand with your company’s because it’s not!  Brand association is powerful and cannot be undone, which means you have to be smart about what kind of attention you want to draw to yourself.  A reporter, journalist, producer or blogger can easily scrape your content and quote it in a story, without your permission.  They can also link you to your company, even if the blog topic isn’t related to your current work position.  If news breaks out because of this visibility, your company can fire you for carelessness and for harming the corporate brand.  Again, our lives are different now, so you better be safe than sorry (and that sounds like something my parents would say).

    5. Announcing your new job on Twitter when you’re still employed.

    Your colleagues are following you on Twitter, trust me.  If you’re looking for a career move right now or in the future and you want to promote it, wait till after you’ve moved from your company.  Supervisor references are always important because endorsements rule the world, so if you want to burn your previous employer by not being transparent offline, then you’re in trouble.  You can tell your friends and family, but once you announce it to the world, it’s fair game and you’ll be laid off immediately without the chance to ever return to that company.  A lot of people don’t realize that once you establish a reputation and a network at a company, it can be your safety net in the future if you desperately need a job.

    6. Thinking you’re superior to older workers because you’re tech literate.

    If you’re a millennial than you have to start figuring out how you want to position yourself at work.  Don’t think for a minute that everyone that’s older than you doesn’t understand technology.  There’s five generations in the workforce, and although millennials will be the majority in the year 2020 (HBS), older workers still have senior positions.  Instead of trying to be superior than them, which can get you fired or put you in a corner, try and be helpful by supporting their projects with your tech expertise.

    7. Wearing rags to work because it’s part of your brand.

    I’m exaggerating by saying “rags,” but the point is that dressing well will help you get promoted and wearing something inappropriate for work, can get you fired over time, if you refuse to change.  A survey by Harris Interactive and Gillette reveals that 84% of HR professionals agree that well-groomed employees climb the corporate ladder faster than those who aren’t.  They put more emphasis on attire than a handshake!  Now, I know what you’re going to say, “but Dan, what if a mohawk or face Tattoo is part of my brand”?  How are you going to get a job or be taken seriously that way though?  There are common social norms that are accepted in the workplace and how you dress and act is how you’ll be judged by everyone around you.  If you want to be so far outside of the norm, then don’t get a corporate job in the first place!

    8. Posting inappropriate photos on Facebook, forgetting that your profile is public.

    Ray Lam, a former NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek  was forced to resign from his job when photographs were discovered on Facebook.  One picture showed him palming a woman’s breast and another with his pants down and two people pulling at his underwear.  I was going to post the photo here, but it’s too inappropriate for this blog (see for yourself).  There are other examples of this happening, such as a teacher being fired for her MySpace picture and a nursing home assistent taking pictures with her patients.  I have knows for you:  you don’t own your profiles on social networks.  That’s right, Facebook owns your profile and companies can pay Facebook for that information.  Always think of your profile as public!

    9. Spending more time on yourself than being productive during work hours.

    A company’s main reason for not allowing social networks at work (aside from legal ramifications for financial institutions, etc) is they feel a productivity loss.  If you’re sharing advice on your social networks at work and blogging, then where is the real business value, unless you’re in a social media specialist type role.  Companies are looking for you to bring in revenue, decrease costs or at least bring in some ROI for the expense they’re paying for you to work there.  If you can’t do that because you’re building your brand at work, then get ready for a big fat pink slip because you’re easily replaceable, now that there’s 6.3 job seekers for every job.

    10. Calling in sick, when you’re not, so that you can focus on your brand.

    32% of workers have called in sick when they were well at least once this year and 28% of employers think more employees are absent with fake excuses because of the economy, reports Careerbuilder.com.  I know you love your blog and you want to get your name out there, but dishonesty will come back to haunt you.  If you aren’t sick, then show up to work please.  You can always work on building your brand when you get home from work.  Also, when you do excellent work during regular hours, that can do wonders for your brand.

    Closing remarks

    Use common sense.  Use common sense.  Common sense is encouraged!  The sad thing is I firmly believe we’re going to see more cases of carelessness in the coming years, as more people use social networks, more access social networks from their mobile phones and the lines between work and life balance are blurred.  Try putting yourself in your employers shoes the next time you post on Facebook or tweet.

    Are you thinking before you post online?

    avatar

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Career Development, eBrand, Personal Branding, Reputation Management, Social Media
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    49 comments on “10 Ways to Get Fired For Building Your Personal Brand
    1. avatar
      EXPERT

      Dan, another awesome, insightful discussion about an issue that is becoming increasingly more important and one that I have personally been thinking about a great deal myself.

      A lot of what you’ve discussed here is why many older Executives fear social media and the potential for it to be abused to the detriment of an organization.
      So many people just randomly and indiscriminately tweet or otherwise post things that are better left unsaid and private.

      Corporate officials and government leaders fear that their employees will reveal all kinds of secrets, tweet when they should be working and say things that may lead to libel, lawsuits and profit loss.

      Thank you for helping to bring these important issues to the forefront of discussion.

      Regards,

      David Flanagan

    2. avatar
      EXPERT

      Dan, brilliant post – too many forget the word ‘appropriate’ when it comes to building and managing their personal brands, and forget too that they are creating a personal digital footprint, which never disappears!

      Louise

    3. avatar
      EXPERT
      Philip says:

      Great post. I personally think #2 is a topic of HOT concern right now to companies.

      Keep the content flowing!

      Philip

    4. avatar
      EXPERT
      deakaz says:

      excellent post! Very good tips for people wanting to build their personal brand, I agreed that the girl who posted on facebook had to be sacked. You need someone who actually wants to work for your company, that’s if you want to be successful.

    5. avatar
      EXPERT
      Rich Brooks says:

      Great post, Dan. All seems like common sense, but like Voltaire says, “common sense is not so common.”

      On #3, however, I don’t think there’s anything wrong w/pushing your company to allow social sites into the workplace. Companies that block such sites often put their employees at a competitive disadvantage, thus hurting the company in the long run.

      Now, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to approach nudging your company to being more accepting of new media, but complaining constructively may help the company you love stay competitive.

    6. avatar
      EXPERT

      Very good points for us all – especially for those wanting to tap into social media and might be looking for a job – thanks for helping those who think that using social media is in a vacuum. WE ALL HEAR YOU, including your manager!

    7. avatar
      EXPERT
      Kevin Carter says:

      Thanks, Dan! In my recent “6 Tips for Keeping your Day Job” post ( http://bit.ly/2bOs5J ) I mentioned including a disclaimer mentioning that your opinions are your own, but you make a good point: you and your company are linked to some degree whether you post a disclaimer or not.

    8. avatar
      EXPERT
      yinka olaito says:

      Employees must never dorget they are being watched. Thanks for taken time out outline this, It will be a reference point for those who over do stuff

    9. avatar
      EXPERT
      Rob says:

      Thanks for the link Dan. Social media provides some exceptional tools to differentiate yourself in a competitive marketplace, but you must always be sure to differentiate yourself positively.

    10. avatar
      EXPERT

      Great blog post I am always talking about these points with people that are new to posting or managing accounts across several different platforms. I have even coached a couple of people on our companies fan page behind the scenes about being aware of the longevity of a post. I do have a slight disagreement with point #2. If I do all the right things at the right times and my brand is bigger than my companies and my company does not choose to leverage that talent and community, I don’t think they should feel the necessity to be hawkish waiting for a trip up to fire me because my brand strengthen is where they want to be.

      News flash companies you have some pretty talented social technologists, strategists, and executors in your ranks find them and have a conversation you might be surprised the coast effectiveness of this approach!

      @keithprivette

    11. avatar
      EXPERT

      Great job posting something that, while might appear to be completely obvious, many employees seem to forget. Your image either grows positively or negatively every day by your actions. To recklessly disregard common sense will ruin your integrity. Being connected through numerous website such as LinkedIn and Facebook with coworkers, then calling in sick for them only to see you had a great three day vacation is just plain stupid. Simply stated in the post: Use common sense!

    12. avatar
      EXPERT
      dave says:

      Am I the only one who thought that this article wasn’t anything special? Everything here was a “no shit sherlock”. Dan, I do think that the article was well-written and I’m sure useful to some (i’m not trolling on here or bashing this post to bash), but I was expecting something a little more informative…

    13. avatar
      EXPERT

      Number 8 is more a reflection of the failure of our legal system. What you do outside of work is none of your employers business and being fired for it should be grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. As it stands, people have the choice of being safe in their jobs or being free to express themselves in public outside of them, which is a pathetic state of affairs.

    14. avatar
      EXPERT

      Dan – another great post – especially the one about thinking you are superior because you are tech literate. Yes there are still many out there who are not familiar with the collaborative nature of social media tools, but networking hasn’t always been online, and there is still a very vibrant offline version of it as well that previous generations are very good at. Use the collaborative tools to engage other generations, even spend some time to assist them with learning these tools. This will go a long way in building your personal brand and your understanding of other niches.

    15. avatar
      EXPERT
      Tony Loftis says:

      Great post, except that I noticed it’s directed at younger workers. Are you implying that older folks don’t need to or should not create their own brands?

      Growing up before the PC and Internet emerged as dominant forces at work and in the home, many boomers struggle trying to make sense of the rise in technology. Social networking can be an alien concern for individuals who went to college when individual computer accounts were a rarity.

      Many boomers look at social networking as a waste of time, mostly because their friends aren’t on those sites, but I wonder if they will have to get on the train before it leaves the station, at least professionally. You can see older workers sign up for LinkedIn because they understand the benefit, but they run from Facebook, a social networking site that counts nearly one in four Internet users as a member. With numbers that strong, can any knowledge worker afford not to belong?

      So I ask you again, what of the boomers? What advice do you have for them?

      • avatar
        EXPERT

        Tony,

        Dan is a Gen Y branding guru. He doesn’t focus on us “old folks.” Disclaimer – I missed being a baby boomer by 6 months. I am technically part of the sunshine generation according to Wikiepdia. (I like that!) Nevertheless, Dan’s posts are some of my favorites and I think the advice applies equally.

        Melissa

      • avatar
        EXPERT
        Dan Schawbel says:

        All these lessons and warnings can be applied to anyone Tony.

    16. avatar
      EXPERT
      Rob Hahn says:

      A great post, but… nine of these ten things have nothing to do with personal brand. They are, rather, sins against common sense, where if you do stupid things, you’re going to get fired.

      Seems to me that only #2 — a conflict between your personal brand and the company’s brand — is truly on point. I’d like to see an example of where an employee was terminated by a company because s/he built a personal brand during his/her own time and didn’t do anything idiotic (like posting inappropriate photos on Facebook).

      Try as I might, I can’t think of an example.

      -rsh

    17. avatar
      EXPERT

      Another great post-If employees are on social networks at work, at least make it productive for the company, and it starts from the top. Proper education and training for employees on how to build your company’s online brand is something I would invest in. When you are at work, you are the brand… rule #1.

    18. avatar
      EXPERT

      Thank you for #6! Sometimes we forget that Baby Boomers are as young as 46. That’s not all that old – trust me. Gen Ys don’t help themselves when they cop an attitude. No one does, no matter the age, for that matter.

      All the best!
      Melissa

    19. avatar
      EXPERT
      J Alexander says:

      Dan, this is a great piece, especially for those whose companies encourage their employees to use social networking sites as part of their corporate marketing efforts. However – and I hate looking like the grammar police here – if there’s one thing we’re always being advised of, it’s checking and re-checking grammar and spelling. Good advice for social networking and rebranding, as well as those inevitable resumes:

      – You’re not “layed off” your’e “laid off” (#1). No snarky comments from the guys, please.
      – “If you’re a millennial than you have to start…” Sorry, it’s “then you have to start…” (#6). “Than” is comparative: “I’d rather be a millenial than a Gen X-er.”.
      – In the same item: “There’s five generations in the workforce…” No, really, it’s “There are five generations…” You had it right elsewhere, so OK it’s just a slip. It’s unfortunately also a sloppy habit that people have gotten into lately, like “like”. Where’s William Safire when we need him?

    20. avatar
      EXPERT

      Dan,

      I responded early this morning and was pleased by your piece because it is an issue that I have been thinking about for some time and it is becoming increasingly more important.

      The growing reliance on social media and the nature of things being posted indiscriminately must be addressed by corporations. Many organizations have seemingly embraced social media and use it quite effectively but I’m sure they have controls in place to prevent waste, abuse etc or at least they should.

      However, so many organizations are slow to adopt new communications channels out of concerns that include fears about indiscriminate-unrestrained comments posted for the world to see by employees. These individuals of course have varying levels of dedication to the job and company and common sense about what passes for good taste.

      I commend you for your article and those who took the time to respond. I have included a link that outlines my own random thoughts on the issue hastily put together a few weeks ago. http://wp.me/pCYqJ-w

      Regards,

      David

    21. avatar
      EXPERT

      Dan: This is an article that was needed. It’s very common sense stuff but nevertheless, so many people forget the common courtesies of respecting their employer’s time and their trust in them. As an executive recruiter, I view the 10 points as an essential part of building someone’s personal brand to make sure they have the respect of their peers. Break these and pay the consequences.

    22. avatar
      EXPERT

      I think you message is right on. I do hope that companies will embrace the numerous social media tools that will reach out to the right clients. I am certain that e-mails had the same problem to adjusting to the common sense of the proper and professional things to do and don’t do. Finally I look forward in the future can start their own business by offering their items through e-commerce. This may be a real options since job are getting harder to find and hold on to. Just a dream I have for people.

    23. avatar
      EXPERT
      Eric Matas says:

      I want to say these tips are no brainers, but I know differently! Thanks Dan — I like your goals on http://BrazenCareerist.com too.

      It is peculiar, though, that it is OK to complain about work/supervisors as long as you do not do it in writing or online. But why not? Isn’t this web 2.0 deal supposed to make the world transparent? And isn’t it normal for people to vent about work? Even if people complain about work, can’t they still like their job? I complain about my kids, but I love them.

      Can’t a “negative” update online be an opportunity?

      So, to the boss who reads a Facebook post that work is boring: why fire when you can inspire? Bored employees usually want more responsibility–find out what would make her change that FB update to: “I love my job.”

    24. avatar
      EXPERT
      Eric Matas says:

      I want to say these are no brainers, but I know differently! Thanks Dan, and I also like your goal statements at http://brazencareerists.com.

      It is peculiar, though, that it is OK to complain about work and supervisors as long as it is not in writing or online. Why not? Isn’t this web 2.0 deal supposed to make the world transparent? And isn’t it normal for people to vent about work? And even if people complain about work, can’t they still like their job? (I complain about my kids, and I love them.)

      So called negative comments should be an opportunity.

      A boss should inspire instead of fire. An employee who expresses boredom is an employee looking for more responsibility. Asking those employees what else they want to do could lead to a Facebook post that says, “I love my job.”

    25. avatar
      EXPERT
      Kahnrad says:

      Dan – Awesome post!

      I especially enjoyed the CNN bit via YouTube. So many people do not realize that social networking sites are essentially public forums, and are far too willing to disclose thoughts that can and often have serious consequences.

      Excellent job man. Very good reading.

    26. avatar
      EXPERT
      Bill says:

      I can condense this list down to one…

      Use common sense!

    27. avatar
      EXPERT
      Saiful says:

      People actually presents different version of themselves to different relations. thats very natural. social networking sites tries to simplify all the versions. thats a problem too.

    28. avatar
      EXPERT
      Rasheed says:

      Seems to be more directed to employees using social networking to express themselves verse building a brand for themselves in terms of marketing & sales. Misleading title of article.

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