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A student posed the following important question:
"This may be a ridiculous thought, but I was wondering about whether I should keep my Facebook/personal life separate from school. it isn't anything personal, and I'm sure the benefits to me professionally will be many, but I'm not always professional in my personal life, and as you and the school are professional references for me when I acquire my license... does this seem overly foolish? I just wonder if I should try to keep the two separate, although I think in this line of work the two become intertwined anyway, as massage can be as much a way of life as a career. your thoughts on the matter would be appreciated. fare thee well."
Absolutley. You need to be conscious of your online presence. A good place to start is to Google your name to see what is already on the web. As an employer, I always Google the names of prospective employees. You never know what you may find. If you are on a social network there is a high probability that your name will be found in the search engines. I also go to Facebook and MySpace and search on names. It may seem invasive but it's all public domain. As an employer, I'm going to use every source I can to make sure that we only hire the best people.
Social Networking is a double-edged sword. As you develop a professional life you have to be very careful to control your public image.

We have some people who have been very successful at creating a professional practice using Facebook, MySpace, and Linkedin. The key is that they had a personal and professional profile. The personal profile was kept private and only friends were allowed in. However, you still don't have control over what other people may post on their sites that involves you.

The danger is that your private friends may share something with each other about your life and a client sees it on one of their sites. It could also take on the form of a video or other content that you are in that gets posted and viewed by clients.

You could say I'm being paranoid but a picture or video of you drunk and performing badly could cause you to lose a job that you really want and need. Even if you were to eliminate your own site, things multiply quickly in the digital realm. There are all kinds of situations that could wind up getting posted that would be detrimental. So you need to be careful.

Of course, as a professional, you have to be more discreet in all aspects of your life. For instance, I know of more than one practitioner who lost clients after a hard night of partying which was seen by one or more clients. (Do you really want a person holding sharp objects near your face if there is a chance they could be hung over or using drugs when they work on you?)

Since your business usually builds through referrals, you have to assume that if one person knows something about you, it will spread to the others. So you have to watch what you do in your local city and make sure that anything that would lower your image as a professional is done away from the community where you work.

Of course, you can also use these sites to promote what you do and build a strong following. Posting helpful information that attracts people to your site as well as listing what you are studying, charity events you participate in, new techniques you have perfected or pictures of your work are very positive things you can do that will promote your business. Also, the people who are your friends on the site can also be important.
Remember, information travels like a virus on a social network. The best protection is limited contact and barriers to things flowing to and from external entities.

Be prosperous and be the change that you want to create.

Kris Stecker, President
Spa Tech Institute, School of Massage, Polarity, Aesthetics, and Cosmetology
© Copyright 2009, Kris Stecker - All Rights Reserved.

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