How Social Media Can Impact Your Professional Identity

I’ve been thinking about social media lately — how it impacts our professionalism as lawyers. With so much information readily available about us on the internet, it’s important to remain aware of how our actions, even our smallest comments, can reflect on us. I turned to John Marshall student Michael Korus for his thoughts on the subject.

Justice Frossard (Ret.):  What should students know about how their use of social media can impact their professional identity?

Michael Korus: Most people know how to act during an interview and how to conduct themselves professionally with an employer, but we easily forget this when we are in the audience of our friends.

Be aware of the reputation you have among your peers.  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social networking sites put everyone under a microscope. As future attorneys, we need to remember that your peers are watching you. This is perhaps especially true with our non-lawyer friends.  Someday soon people will come to us with their most serious problems and their trust.  Our friends have the potential to become our clients.  Will they respect you when that time comes? If you are posting embarrassing or inappropriate pictures or comments on social media you may be tarnishing your professional reputation.  Your peers know you are in law school — they hear you talk about how hard it is, and how much work you have to do, and then they compare that with how you present yourselves to them.  Are you someone who is constantly posting pictures of partying and crazy antics? Are your Facebook statuses and tweets projecting you as a professional or as a clown? Avoid the urge to be an entertainer on social media.

Remember that social media is not just for socializing.  Employers may have access to our favorite social sites and use them.  One of the first things that my employer told me was that they could not find me on Facebook.  Your profile picture is worth a thousand words; what is the first image that you are projecting for everyone to see?  Most people have very low privacy settings and you can look at just about anyone’s pictures and posts.  If you have unethical or immature material on your social network, you are risking your professional reputation.  Take some time to look at your online profiles and clean them up if necessary.  Do it for your reputation and your professional identity!