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.

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.

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, 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  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.