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When Personal and Professional Worlds Collide Online

By Sima Dahl
President of Parlay Communications

Whenever I give a keynote presentation or conduct a sales training session on how to leverage social networking to generate referrals, the first question I am always asked sounds something like, "How do I keep my personal contacts separate from my professional contacts?" And my answer is always, "Why would you want to?"

Some people believe they have very valid reasons for keeping their personal life separate from their professional life. But most of us are likely simply over thinking it.

Consider the golden rule of networking: people buy from people they know, like, and trust. That's also true for job seekers and career climbers: people hire people they know, like, and trust, and they refer them, too. Your challenge then is to be known as someone who is likeable and trustworthy.

Before starting my own business three years ago, I worked for a total of nine different employers. And of those nine employers, I was referred to the last seven by members of my extended network—people I had worked with, went to school with, volunteered with, and skied with.

When I struck out on my own, the largest client I landed that same year came by way of referral from an old high school friend who I hadn't seen since I graduated a million moons ago. Think it was a fluke? A second high school friend referred me to one of her former employers just a few months ago.

It doesn't matter how people first meet you—what matters is how they come to know and feel about you. If conventional brands are personal, then consider how intimate personal brands must be. When we feel strongly about someone, we go to bat for them, advocate on their behalf, and act in their best interests.

Consider one more: a consulting client reached out to friend me on Facebook. I paused at first, wondering what he might think about some of my candid snaps, smart-mouth comments, and other shenanigans. But I took a leap of faith and trusted that if he grew to know more of me—the whole me—there was a greater chance that he would become one of my personal brand champions. And so it was no surprise that I was copied on an e-mail from him the other day, encouraging a colleague of his to hire me to speak at an upcoming conference.

Friend or client? Sorority sister or lead source? High school sweetheart or resume referrer? Absolutely! Not ready to let your worlds collide? Start small with three simple steps:

  • Find your Facebook friends on LinkedIn and get connected there.
  • Drop little reminders on Facebook so your personal contacts know what a lead looks like for you—be it a client, a speaking opportunity, or even a new job. People can't help you if they don't know what you need.
  • Consider how you can demonstrate your character, competence, and charisma through your online interaction.

We buy from, hire, and refer people, so behaving like a real human being is half the battle.

Sima Dahl

Sima Dahl is a social media strategist and personal branding expert with 20 years experience working for both mature enterprises and early-stage startups. She is well known for her "Sway Factor" approach to social networking and has coached rainmakers, ladder climbers, and job seekers on the art of networking in the digital age. Sima is the President of Parlay Communications, founder and Chief Connector of Marketing Job Wire, serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago AMA, and blogs about various social media and marketing topics at ExpertBusinessSource.com.