For the past few years – well, at least since the great social media uprising – teachers, professors, and potential employers alike have been telling the soon-to-be graduates to watch what they post on their social media accounts. However, I’ve recently come to notice that this is somewhat of a grey area in terms of what is acceptable and what is not.
Whether you use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc. everything you publicly post will be visible to anyone who searches your name – that’s a given. However, for many college graduates looking to build a career, social media can be a beneficial outlet, as well – making it both a positive and negative source at the same time.
What type of photos are your future employers finding online?
Think about it this way
You’re an employer – you have a social media account. Now, I’m not a gambler, but I’d put money on your profile being a private and well kept secret to your employees. So, if you (as the employer) can make your profile’s private and you’re searching for potential candidates to hire and see their timeline is covered with photos of them competing for world’s longest keg stand each weekend, I don’t blame you for not wanting to hire them.
Making the profile’s private is simple, and if they can’t figure that out – yes, I agree it’s a red flag because it shows a lack of awareness.
The Little White Lies
As a recent college graduate (hold your applause till the end of the post, please) all the horror stories about employers finding things on Facebook are very fresh in my mind. Now, while those stories might not have had any truth to them, they did help make me aware of what is appropriate to post and what is not.
It’s kind of like when we’re younger and our parents told us little white lies – or fibs – to get us to stop doing bad things such as,
If you keep making that face – it’ll freeze that way.
Eating chocolate will cause acne (every teenage girls WORST nightmare).
If you swallow gum, it stays in your stomach for 10 years.
Well, your parents don’t tell you this, but that whole “little white lie,” theory will apply to the rest of your adult life. In college, I can’t tell you how many professors tried to pull the “Employers have special codes to hack into your social media profiles,” but there were plenty. The thing is, anyone can get those “codes,” especially hackers, because that’s what they do – they hack things.
Defining The Gray Area
So, our social media profiles keep us connected to the world, right? Well, more or less, but as humans, we like to share our experiences with people and we shouldn’t have to stop doing that – technology is too fun. However, there are loop holes to cleaning up your social media profiles for future employers.
What happens when a prospective employee has several photos from high school that express a keen interest in partying, but their photos in college are more appropriate and censored? Well, I asked my boss – the one and only, Patrick Coombe – his thoughts on that question.
“I would keep it in mind. It really depends – if illegal drugs are involved in the photos, then that is definitely an issue, but I know everyone drinks and parties in high school and college, I certainly did so, it’s really not an issue as long as they present well and have a nice set of skills.”
I only believed one cardinal rule about social media and will forever follow it, “Don’t put anything on Facebook you wouldn’t want your parents to see.” So, if your profile is filled with photos of beer pong tournaments and you have an old profile picture that’s Bob Marley smoking what we all know Bob Marley smoked, go through and clean it up – because you can’t blame someone for not wanting to hire you based off the party persona you’ve built for yourself online.
Now, I don’t blame you if you have some embarrassing party photos from high school posted because it’s like a “memory book,” but it’d be better to save those to your computer and get them off your personal profile because although those events happened roughly five years ago, how’s the employer to know you’ve changed for the better?
The Flip Side
Remember before how I mentioned that social media can be beneficial to the job search? Well, this is 100 percent true – which is also kind of part of the aforementioned “Gray Area.” When Facebook was just gaining traction, it was an outlet for teenagers to ignore their parents and teachers, but now – it’s turning into a personalized billboard. I’ve read several articles from your average Facebook and Twitter users, who started sharing their thoughts online through blogs and used their other social media accounts to share their posts – which in turn, gained them a good amount of online authority.
So, it’s really a touch and go situation in terms of social media having a positive or negative impact on the path to building your career. The best tips would be to make it as private as possible, and if you have things to hide – delete them. Social media is such an insanely powerful tool and if it can do more than just distract us during the day and in turn, help make us productive, it should be utilized, but in an appropriate way – of course.
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