Executive Careers Blog

Setting Online Boundaries in Your Job Search


One of my clients was recently invited by a recruiter to become a Friend on Facebook.

This client had hoped to keep her Facebook personal and use LinkedIn for professional contacts.

At the same time, she wanted to develop the relationship with this recruiter and worried that Ignoring the request might be viewed as a rebuff.

In the end, she contacted the recruiter via email to let her know that she wanted to connect via LinkedIn instead. 

Score one for boundaries.

Many people keep my client’s online boundary:  Facebook for personal; LinkedIn for professional.  When I recruited, I deliberately chose LinkedIn for my research and sourcing because I didn’t want to risk crossing that common boundary.  It’s the same reason I tried a candidate’s work number first before calling home or cell.

If you would like to keep a personal and professional online boundary, then be consistent.  Keep your professional research and inquiries in one network and personal separate. 

Realize, however, that not everyone feels this way, so you may have people reach out to you in ways you didn’t intend (as with my client and the recruiter), and you want to deal with these inquiries consistently. You will want to keep your personal networking profile as private as possible if you indeed do not want it used for professional inquiries.

Another consideration is that the line between personal our professional lives is often blurry, especially when we are in job search mode (and who isn’t these days, even if you are employed).  You want people to be able to find you.  Your friends are most likely to think about you and advocate for you. 

Therefore, your personal network may be your strongest professional leads.  Before you delineate completely between personal and professional, know that what you gain in boundaries, you may lose in opportunities.

A compromise could be to toggle between your personal and professional networks of choice and make sure that everyone that you would like to be in both networks are.  You will need to invite one to the other, and make sure you update each site with the relevant information.  This is more work and requires coordination. 

However, it ensures that you maintain the boundaries, but still reap the benefits of integrating your personal and professional lives.

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for Portfolio.com and Vault.com and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

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