Last weekend, St. Louis, Missouri, the place I have called home for nearly 15 years saw its second major uprising over a police shooting. Protests erupted after the former policeman involved in the shooting was found not guilty of first degree murder. As the protests on the streets erupted, so too did social media. I was out of town on a camping trip with my family over the weekend, so I missed most of it, but when I returned on Sunday evening...Lord, have mercy! It's at times like this, when you really wonder about humanity and the fate of our society. Most people are able to be rational and thoughtful when discussing these types of situations, but there are always a few people who just can't hold back. They feel the need to vent, and out comes something they may regret for a long time.
While we live (fortunately) in a country that gives us the freedom to speak without fear of negative ramifications from the government, it does not mean we can say anything we feel without social consequences. For instance, one such post I saw passed around over the weekend was of a person who described the St. Louis protesters using several racial epithets and suggested the police start shooting into the crowds. Why was it being passed around? Because those on social media found out where this person worked and were asking others to call this person's employer to get them to terminate their employee.
Obviously, this kind of post is harmful to your employment, and for good reason. For that matter, posting about politics and religion can be a problem as well. However, there are other times when we do things on social media that can be less obviously self-destructive. So today we're going to talk about both what to do and what not to do on social media so that you can avoid making the mistakes others have made on these platforms.
No Employer Needs to See You Party Hearty
While employers have no issue with people who drink occasionally and have a good time, they do have an issue with people who exhibit poor judgement. That's what party pictures have the risk of showing. When you have pictures or videos in which you're seen as falling over drunk, you look immature and prone to making poor choices.
So don't post those pictures where your eyes look glassy and ask others to remove pictures on their pages that have you in them if it paints you in a bad light. Even if you aren't tagged, if that person's page is public, there's a chance you could be discovered. You can also set your accounts so that you can't be tagged or can only be tagged if you approve. This would be advisable as you know you have good judgement, but does your buddy?
Don't Get Caught in a Lie
I just read an advice column a couple of days ago in which a young woman, who was just recently hired by a company and still in her probationary period, wanted to hang out with her friends in a cabin they had rented to watch the solar eclipse. She emailed her boss the evening before telling him that she ate something bad, got sick, and wouldn't be able to come in the next day.
Stupidly, she posted a picture of her and her friends on Facebook. While she wasn't Facebook friends with her boss, someone else on her team was a friend, and that person didn't appreciate the fact that she came into work, while this girl decided to play hooky. Needless to say, the next day was this girl's last day.
The lesson to this story is to not lie in the first place, but if you do, don't be so bold as to make your lie apparent on social media. Employers don't like being taken for suckers.
Don't Complain About Your Current or Past Employer
I'm sure we've all been told at some point in our lives that if you've got nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. It's a good rule to live by because all you end up doing is making the other person mad. And so it is with employers as well.
Yelp fired a young woman in 2016 for writing an open letter to the CEO complaining about her job's pay and how she couldn't afford anything with the high cost of living in the San Francisco Bay area. While she may have a point, the better path to take if you don't like what you're being paid is to find another job that pays better. Calling out your employer is almost a certain way for your current employer to quickly become your former employer. Additionally, how many other companies want to bring on to their team someone who likes to air dirty laundry?
Save Your Conspiracy Theories to Back Yard Conversations
Admit it, we all love a good conspiracy theory from time to time. It's fun to talk about, even if we don't necessarily believe them. From alien abductions to chem trails to sightings of Elvis Presley to 9/11 being an inside job, they are intriguing enough to discuss. But if you want to be seen as a serious person, you probably do not want to publicize your fascination with them to the general public.
Save these conversations with your friends in the back yard who already know you have some eccentricities. They won't judge you as harshly as a stranger considering you for a job with their business.
Keep Your Private Health Issues Private
Employers are hesitant to hire someone who may be out of the office a lot or be an extra cost to their group health insurance. While it's illegal for employers to discriminate against people who have a health issue when making a hiring decision, if you're disclosing information they never asked you about, they will be able to find another reason not to call you in for an interview or offer you a job. Is it fair? No. But it's the cold-hard truth.
So while you may want to let friends and family members know what's happening in your life, you might want to do this through personal conversations instead of public proclamations.
Don't be a Negative Nelly
If you're frustrated with your job search, it's easy to fall into the negativity loop. Unfortunately, venting this frustration online is not the best way to go. I can empathize with your situation, but negativity has a way of repelling the very people you want to attract when you're searching for a new job or trying to start a new career.
To keep from doing this, my recommendation would be to consume positivity wherever you can find it, be it a book, a movie, or a friend, in order to have the right frame of mind. Also, avoid social media when you are feeling down. When you feel this way, it's time to get out and do something productive that you can feel proud about. That's something you can post instead!
Bathroom Mirrors are NOT Meant for Selfie Profile Pictures
I don't care how nice your bathroom is or how great your hair and outfit look, do not use a selfie you took in the bathroom as your profile picture...especially on LinkedIn. I've seen too many of these over the years. It reeks unprofessional. Do yourself a favor and don't let this detail be the reason someone passes you over on a job for someone else.
At a minimum, find a place with a nice neutral background and decent lighting. Then get a friend take several photographs with different poses to choose from. Better still, get an updated head-shot done at an actual photo studio where the lighting and other details are perfect.
Avoid Posting Anything Vulgar, Profane, or With Poor Grammar
Whatever you write or share is a reflection on you and your judgement. If you post a racy photo of a scantily-clad woman on your Twitter feed, an employer is seeing a potential lawsuit for sexual harassment. If you post a profane laden rant about your neighbor who is doing something you can't stand, an employer sees you doing the same on a customer service call. If you post something using incorrect grammar and misspellings on Google+, an employer sees poor communication within the office and lack of intelligence on your part.
Why set yourself in a bad light and eliminate yourself from the hiring process by being careless with these sorts of things. Clean it up! Employers want to hire G-Rated employees who are bright and ambitious.
Don't Depend on Your Privacy Settings
Yes, there's way to make everything you do on social media private and unsearchable. But don't depend on that to prevent something you don't want to get out from getting out. The fact of the matter is, if there is anyone following you that disagrees with something you just posted, it can easily get out. All they have to do is a screen capture of what you said and now your controversial Facebook post or Tweet is public.
Make Your Social Media Work For You, Not Against You
So at this point, you're probably asking, "Ok, so what can I do on social media. You've taken all the fun away!"
You want your accounts on social media platforms to market you as the professional and the decent human being you are. Show what you're involved in. Do you volunteer for something that benefits the community? Post it. Did you just read an interesting book that made you rethink things? Write about it. Do you exercise? Update the progress you've made toward your goal. Talk about your hobbies, share photos of your last family outing, give a movie review. Share information about the company you work for (just make sure that it's positive) or quotes from thought leaders you admire. Write encouraging or funny (and clean) comments on a friend's post. These are all completely acceptable.
In general, make sure that you present yourself as positive, upbeat, and professional. Don't give an employer, who is perusing your profile, a reason to forgo interviewing or hiring you just because you posted the wrong thing.
My favorite story taken from history that's related to this is one about Abraham Lincoln. He would write a "hot letter" to someone if he was upset with them. His most famous one was to General Meade who didn't pursue General Lee after his victory at Gettysburg. What's interesting is that he would never send these letters. He just wrote them and stored them in his desk. It was his way of venting without it being public. This is a good lesson for all of us. For your sake, take to heart the age-old wisdom of "some things are best left unsaid," or not posted, or not shared. Use social media to do yourself some good rather than to shoot yourself in the foot.
At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.
We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.
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