The internet is a powerful tool that can help you find a career quickly. Unfortunately, if you aren’t careful with the kind of information you share on social media sites, it can put your employment in jeopardy.
Making your social media profile work appropriate isn’t just a good idea, it’s actually a workplace necessity. Not following proper social media etiquette can find you in a precarious situation.
According to a Career Builder survey, over half of all employers have decided not to hire a candidate based on the content they found on social media. Seven out of 10 employers research candidates on social media sites during the hiring process, and 48 percent check up on current employees’ social media accounts. With statistics like this, you can’t be too careful about the content you post or share.
Understanding Your Digital Footprint
Have you ever heard someone say that your digital footprint matters, but weren’t sure what they were talking about? Your digital footprint refers to all electronic data that can be linked back to you online. If you post 20 times each day on multiple social media sites, in a matter of a few weeks there is a vast amount of information that a recruiter, HR manager, or hiring manager is likely to find about you without you knowing.
Each time you post a photo or update, your digital footprint expands. Other data that are linked to your digital print includes websites you visit, stores you buy items from, and all the devices you use, such as your phone, tablet, or computer. One critical point to remember when discussing your digital footprint is that while you may have forgotten about a questionable post from 2016, it is genuinely impossible to erase the existence of this information.
So, before you post your next update, take a look at some of the ways the internet can ruin your career.
1) Spelling or Grammar Issues
Have you ever shortened a post by using text lingo to make it fit into the character count of some platforms? Of course, you have. However, you need to keep in mind that many employers see this as poor spelling and grammar, and they can be turned off by these findings.
So, when you’re tempted to use text shorthand, consider just how important your social media account is on your next job search. This can even force you to improve your language skills and be more concise.
2) Ranting or Being Disrespectful
Let’s be honest: it’s easy to be a keyboard warrior and type some mean things to people you don’t agree with on social media. However, you need to heed a few tips for courtesy in the digital age. This means that before you say something that could be seen as racist, sexist, or downright mean, think twice. While you can certainly delete anything later, it’s crucial to remember that the damage is probably already done.
3) Sharing Personal Pastimes
Even if you’re over 21, someone might have an issue seeing images of you with alcohol or other substances. Consider High School Football coach Fernando Bryant’s story. He was hired by a private Christian School and just 20 days later was fired because of an image of he and his wife holding a bottle of alcohol. The picture in question was from three years earlier. The school did not have in their policies that staff cannot drink alcohol, but several parents raised concerns after seeing this image.
While this might seem like an extreme case, it’s not a limited incidence. People who work in schools, hospitals, other public institutions must be particularly careful about what they post. School leaders may offer tips for improving communication on social media, but ultimately, the individual employee is responsible for anything they post or are tagged in by others.
There are countless stories just like this of employers who saw images of “legal” drinking and decided that the message the pictures sent didn’t align with their overall mission or vision of the workplace. Before you post the pictures of last weekend’s party, think about the message your images convey.
4) Speaking Poorly of the Company
Everyone has a bad day at work from time to time. However, heading to social media to air out your dirty laundry isn’t going to strengthen your personal brand on social media. Whether you’re complaining about or mocking the company, supervisors, or customers, it’s probably not going to coincide with the culture and policies of the company. The best approach is to just not talk about your workplace frustration online.
5) Breaking Your Employer’s Social Media Policy
Most businesses have a social media policy that clearly defines what acceptable and unacceptable behavior is. These policies can cover professional boundaries, how to handle workplace issues internally, and the best way to represent your employer across all social media sites.
It’s critical that you read, understand, and follow your workplace policy so that it doesn’t cause you career problems. Not every business will have the same rules. Some schools might have policies that teachers aren’t allowed to post images of themselves doing anything students can’t do. Hospitals or other healthcare facilities may have policies about taking pictures in patient care areas or posting details about a patient due to privacy and confidentiality laws. Other employers may be a bit more lenient and even encourage staff to share pictures, events, and other updates about work.
6) Friending the Whole Office
It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong by sending friend requests to Jane from accounting, even though you’ve only talked to her once. You just have to weigh the potential consequences of everyone knowing small details about your personal life if you going to send a request to everyone you meet at work. If you break company policy and Jane is a stickler for the rules, there is a good chance she will turn you in before you even remember that she is a friend.
If you’re in management, friending your employees on social media many not be a good idea. You could make a staff member uncomfortable or even access personal information about them that you just shouldn’t know. So, before you send everyone a request to connect, think about the worst case scenario and decide if you can survive if that would happen.
7) Sharing Company Secrets
If you know the secret ingredient to your companies famous chocolate chip cookies, it’s a bad idea even to consider sharing this information anywhere. Giving competitors information that they could steal is going to be a losing battle for your company. So, before you share documents, papers, or other proprietary information, consider the risks to the company and your career outlook.
Following Best Practices
Your social media accounts can be an asset. Read your companies policy and do a quick inventory of your past posts and images. Delete anything that could be seen as offensive or questionable by an employer. If you have old accounts that you are no longer using, delete them. There is no reason to leave old data floating around in cyberspace.
Draw a line between your personal and professional identities. If you’re not sure if everything you post is appropriate for the workplace, consider creating an account just for professional connections and a separate one for your personal life. The challenge with this plan is keeping strict boundaries between the two. Avoid connecting with colleagues on your personal accounts and vice versa. You should also check out your privacy settings and make sure everything is well-controlled on any personal accounts you have.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Social media is a significant part of your personal and professional lives. You should be able to land a new job and keep up with great-aunt Carol’s 99th birthday celebrations at the same time. Follow these best practices and avoid these nine ways the internet can ruin your career.