Just because you’re transitioning out of uniform doesn’t mean you can’t apply lessons from the new Defense Department social media policy to your civilian career.
The public affairs policy, issued in late summer, marked the first department-wide effort toward social media guidance. Launched to rein in the mismanagement of the services’ official social media accounts, it provides some good advice that can be used for your personal accounts, too.
[RELATED: Military OneSource Social Media Guide]
If you are applying for a job in the civilian sector, it’s highly probable a company will investigate your social media presence before offering you the position. LinkedIn entries, Facebook posts, and even tweets you sent 10 years ago could pose a hazard.
Here are a few ways you can responsibly maintain your digital presence:
- Accuracy is important. Taking the time to research the author and sources of an article you would like to post, or repost, adds to your credibility. This is especially true if the source is not widely known. If you are on the fence about specific statements made, put some time into validating the information by comparing it to other sources covering the same topic.
- Remember: Once a comment is made online, it will always be discoverable. “So often comments, even those that are best-intentioned, can be misconstrued with the absence of live interaction, tone, etc. It is better to play it safe when it comes to ‘thorny’ issues,” said Erin Cardinal, USN (Ret), MOAA’s program director for transition services and family programs.
- Cultivate your public persona. Identify what you want your professional network to understand about you through your social presence and stay true to it. “Always stay ‘on brand’ with your professional career goals, and refrain from potentially charged subjects, whether politics, religion, et al,” said Pat Williams, USN (Ret), MOAA’s program director for engagement and transition services.
- Avoid personally identifiable information. If you decide to post a picture, for example, be sure to thoroughly scan it for anything self-identifying: A license plate, for instance, or a piece of mail with your address on it in the background. The effort you put into the maintenance of your social media presence may just accelerate you past your peers. “Demonstrating your compliance with DoD guidance on social media usage provides a reflection on how you will protect their sensitive information,” says Brian Anderson, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s senior director for transition and member services.
- Scrutinize connection requests. It’s very common on social media to get a request or direct message from a fake account hoping to prey on your ignorance. The DoD policy offers some tips to catch a fake account. For example, a profile that has very few photos, followers, and comments indicate a possible imposter account. “Always thoroughly review every connection request, as well as anyone you’re looking to connect with to help ensure you’re only connecting with accounts, not scammers,” Williams said.
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