Have I lost a job already?
The big question is whether or not Facebook and Twitter have ended up costing you a gig. To this question, you will probably never hear an answer. In The Production Assistant’s Pocket Handbook, author Caleb Clark says, “People will not usually tell you if you are doing a mediocre job, they will just never hire you again.”
That’s true to the nth degree.
Nobody takes the time to explain why they didn’t call or hire you again — they just don’t. In fact, if you or I have lost work through these technological mediums, we will very likely never know. But it is possible.
Personal postings and professional online profiles do not always play nice. If you have a tendency to post controversial, offensive or otherwise questionable material, it can reflect poorly on you.
Here’s a scenario: A friend directs you to a link of a video that shows a girl doing something mildly silly, but nothing out of the ordinary. You post it on your Facebook with a simple commentary that is quite vulgar in its description of her. Production Coordinator Sarah, who occasionally checks in on your page, probably won’t ever want to call you again after a sexist comment. Potential jobs lost.
Now I realize that is quite an extreme example. Most people do not go around posting sexist comments on their pages, but I wanted to point out the fact that you never know who is going to read what you post. You may be posting it with a particular person or a group of people in mind, but it is important to always remember that your professional connections are going to be reading right alongside them.
Yes people should have a right to share what they want and even speak their mind on the subject at hand, but if that is to be taken to the extreme it may cost you. In the case of using these mediums as professional tools, it may cost you jobs.
Your online profile is an extension of yourself
When social networks first started, this concept was more foreign, but it has grown to become the norm. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are closely related to our personal identities. Part of that is due to the growth of the platform, but a lot of it has to do with the frequency in which you use it.
Think about it: there are friends that you may have on Facebook that never post at all and there are friends who post quite frequently, maybe even too much. The one who doesn’t post at all is likely more disassociated with their profile because it doesn’t reflect their present life — posts are old, info is outdated and pictures aren’t current. The friend who posts everyday, however, has chosen to adopt an online identity that reflects the daily on-goings of their life. There is nothing wrong with this, but ask yourself how closely associated are you with your profiles?
This is a key concept because it is at the core of what can cost you your professionalism and subsequently some jobs. For most people, they will fall in between somewhere, having an online identity that is associated with them but doesn’t reflect who they are entirely. How could it? Only so much can be said through text and images, no matter how dynamic or accurate they are.
Despite the irksome concept of an entire lifetime of experiences being drilled down to a relationship status and 140 character messages, this is the reality of using these sites. People who are your followers or your friends will associate you with your online profile. Who you are as a person begins to be projected to thousands of people on the internet through these mediums, like it or not.
You are the brand
Freelancers are in a unique position as a workforce because they are not attached with any one brand or company. As a freelancer, you are your own professional entity. That makes things tough because it tends to meld your personal aspects with your professional.
For me, as Evan Luzi, anything that my name is attached to has the potential to become a part of my professional life and the other way around. That can be evidenced by the various times that my name is cited along with this blog on other websites.
As such, freelancers must be more careful about how they carry themselves in the online community. A large Twitter following can bring lots of notoriety, but you must be careful about how that following perceives who you are. There is no brand to hide behind — it’s your name and reputation.
Your friends are your clients, bosses, colleagues
It’s the one thing you hear in every business school and certainly in every film school: networking is key. Good old fashioned handshake-nice-to-meet-you-business-card-exchange networking. If you are tech-savvy, you probably extend this real life process into the virtual realm.
If that’s the case, it’s important to remember who you have designated as friends. They end up being former clients, bosses and colleagues, all of whom you hope to connect with again at some point in the future or else you wouldn’t have bothered adding them to your online profiles.
When it comes to the filmmaking world, these relationships hover around. That is because most creative professionals can and do wear multiple hats. The director on one shoot, for instance, might end up calling you as a producer for another. Or the 1st AC you worked as 2nd AC for, might end up being a cinematographer a year down the line.
Couple the shifting professional dynamic with a friendship that can evolve out of the joking atmosphere of many film sets and there is an interplay that teeters between friendship and professional. It can be tough to distinguish the two, and as such, we can lose sight of the fact that a professional attitude is important for these contacts.
Freelance work is so heavily dependent on these relationships growing to help find more work and social networking is invaluable as a way to easily keep in touch with a multitude of potential opportunities and gigs. But it is important to remember that your personal profile may also be leveraging professional opportunities.
Controlling the damage
Twitter, on the other hand, was designed with openness in mind. It has an all-encompassing “on/off” switch that designates whether your tweets are open or require your permission to be seen, but there is no separate list option.
For other online social sites, exploring what they offer in terms of privacy is important if you don’t want to have to worry about subjugating your personal musings to your professional brand. For me, however, the most ideal option is to adopt a completely professional online persona.
What that means is I try very hard not to put myself in a position where I worry about my online profiles.
I once got a speeding ticket that I thought was pretty harmless — only 11 mph on the interstate — and was vehemently upset about it. I called my girlfriend at the time and went off ranting about how speeding tickets were stupid and the cop didn’t understand. She waited until I had slowed down and said, “If you hadn’t been speeding, you wouldn’t be in a position to get a ticket.”
After a few hours, I realized what that meant. It didn’t matter that speeding tickets are stupid (I still think they are) or whether I got a bad draw on the cop who pulled me over. If I had never been speeding, I would’ve never gotten a ticket. That may not be ideal, but it is the best solution.
Same goes for the online postings. Yes, we shouldn’t have to censor ourselves or play politically correct to all the corners of the internet, but it is the best solution. If you never stir up controversy, you will never have to deal with it. Or as I say on set, “Nobody disagrees with the guy who doesn’t say anything at all.”
If you don’t put yourself in a position to lose a job, you don’t ever have to worry about doing so. Take that to heart because that is the crux of this — don’t sacrifice your professional identity in the name of something that doesn’t matter.
You’re Going to Be OK
Most of you reading this aren’t going to be posting controversial comments on a producer’s profile or post a picture of you doing a few choice drugs for the whole world to see.
In my experience, the people who end up doing these kinds of shenanigans are the ones who aren’t very effective on set anyway. It’s all about the aura of professionalism. You have to be the best at what you do to get people to overlook the fact that you’re a jerk.
The purpose of this article was not to scare you or force you to make all your settings private, but rather act as a reminder that if not treated carefully, an online presence can take on a life of its own. Take a look at your profiles and evaluate if there are small changes you can make to improve how you are perceived by the online community, and subsequently, those offering jobs.
The flip-side of all this is that social networks also provide great opportunities to connect with a diverse group of individuals and allow you to keep a professional presence with former collaborators. They can also be the start of some great friendships, insight and, as it turns out, great subjects for movies.