5 Common Mistakes That Make You Look Unprofessional Online

  •    Jason is a writer for Fit Small Business and owns a pottery business.

Do you have killer interview skills? Awesome. Does your resume read like a billboard for Success, USA? Killer. But what about your online presence? With more and more employers, clients, and potential business partners checking out new contacts online, your digital persona may be holding you back. Here are five things that are guaranteed to make you look unprofessional online, along with what you can do to ensure these mistakes do not hijack your professional reputation.

1. MPPartyAnimal@gmail.com - Very Nice . . . Now Grow Up and Ditch the Cutesy Personal Email

Nothing communicates unprofessionalism like a ridiculous or "clever" personal email address that is also used as your primary business email. Maybe it was funny in high school or college, but such addresses communicate a sense of immaturity and unprofessionalism.

What you need instead is a dedicated business email address. This does two things:

  • It adds a sense of professionalism to your brand. Having a business email shows that you are willing to take care of the little details, like spending 20 minutes to set up a business email instead of just being lazy and using your personal email.
  • It makes it a lot less likely that important professional emails will get lost in the shuffle. When you are mixing personal and business email, it is easy to lose an email here or there. That is much less likely when you have a dedicated business email address where all your professional email is received.

2. “Nice, a Professional Website . . . or Maybe Not So Professional After All”

Your professional website can also have a big impact on how a potential client or employer views you and your brand. Here are some things to pay special attention to in order to ensure that you are putting your best and most professional foot forward.

  • Poor Design with 1980s Code: Websites have come along way in the last 10 years. If your site's graphics and code have not been updated in the last several years, it is time to address that. There is nothing that kills your professional street cred like a crappy website.
  • Bad Communication and Grammar: Pay special attention to sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation. If necessary, have someone with more writing experience look it over and make some edits. Poorly constructed content communicates ignorance and a lack of professional experience.
  • Forms and Pages That Don't Work: It seems like a no-brainer, but make sure everything on your website works. If 404 error messages are standard fare on your site, anyone who checks you out online will not be impressed.

3. “You Should Check Out My Facebook and Twitter Pages, They Are a Riot”

If you have said this or something similar to your friends, odds are you need to make some changes on your social media pages. Sloppy social media pages are a definite turn-off for potential clients and employers. Here are several specific things to address:

  • Foul Language: It is not as if an occasional curse word here and there is that big of a deal, but any kind of habitual use of language is just a bad idea. It makes you look immature. Also, it gives the impression that you are not a good enough communicator to get your point across without using curse words as a filler.
  • Comments About Your Employers: Letting off steam on social media about any employer is just a no-no. It is just plain stupid, unprofessional, and a definite turn-off for potential employers and clients.
  • Racially or Politically Charged Commentary: Everybody is going to have their personal views on things, and your business contacts get that. But, when you are posting and sharing content that is insensitive or politically charged, you are not doing yourself any favors.

4. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Like “Drunk, Drunk, Drunk, + 997

There is really not a whole lot to be said here. A hokey and out-of-focus picture of you with your bowling buddies as your profile photo on your Linkedin page is probably not going to get you a whole lot of professionalism votes. Make sure your picture is clear, professional, and appropriate.

Also, do yourself a favor and keep the half-naked pictures of yourself slammin em down at the local bar for your own viewing pleasure, instead of everyone else's. All of your professional acquaintances will thank you.

5. “Hey, this is Wendy’s phone . . .What, no mom, shut up, I’m recording my phone message . . . anyway, leave me a message and I’ll call you back sometime”

A business voicemail message may not be directly related to your web presence, but it is an important part of your professional image. If you have your business number online on your site or social media pages (which you should), then you want to be sure that your voicemail is professional and business related. If you cannot justify a separate business phone, you can get a business number that forwards to your cell phone and have it routed to a separate voicemail. Using a VOIP provider with a good mobile app is a great and cost-effective option.

Just Keep it Real And Don’t Be Stupid

A lot of this stuff is just common sense. Don't let your online presence be a deal-breaker for business partners, clients, and potential employers. Do yourself a favor and keep things clean and professional. Your clients, employers, and career will all thank you.

Image Credit: World's Worst Website