Social media: watch what you say!

28 March 2017 | Careers Advice | Thomas Peacock

In 2015, news circulated of a woman who lost her job because she listed on Facebook the different ways she thought her boss was an idiot. Although comical at the time, it was her boss who had the last laugh. Social media is increasingly blurring the line between business and pleasure, between opinion and fact, with many hiring managers checking a potential employee’s online presence before making a final decision. Here's how to not make social media hurt your career development.

A look into the past

With youth inevitably comes naivety and poor decision making. Photos and statuses that you took years ago will not accurately reflect the person you are today. If you have idle account it might be in your best interest to delete them so that those old images and statuses don’t come back to haunt you. It's also wise to spend some time going through your social media platforms, reviewing your past activities, and asking yourself what would your boss think. Delete or set to private any troublesome posts or accounts you wouldn’t want your boss to see. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter allow you to increase your privacy settings. However, observe what your profile would look like from the perspective of a reviewer to ensure that you're happy with your current social media status.

A place to rant or a joke too far?

Everyone has frustrations about all aspects of life. But is social media the place to rant about them? Having a moan once in a while is okay, but employers are now skeptical about employees who use social media to release annoyance. Employers can take the view that if minor things upset you, you may not be able to handle criticism or job stress very well. Rants about your work can are doubly damning. Companies are increasingly focused on their online image and have dismissed people who have badmouthed them on social media.

Can a personal joke or opinion be just that? What can be written on the screen is still one of the hardest forms of human communication. Concepts, such as sarcasm, can be difficult to pick up when reading it. As a result, what you may think is a joke when you are writing can be offensive when read. When the reader is your boss or potential employer, this is unlikely to work in your favour. Ask yourself, “would a stranger understand this to be comedy/satire?” If you cannot be sure, set the post to private.

The many faces of Eve?

Everyone has had that small lie that has manifested itself into a big monster. Social media has the power to reveal the truth. You may have had a few too many drinks, resulting in a hangover on a workday and calling in “sick.” When photos of your night out emerge on your timeline, revealing the nature of your “illness”. Your credibility with your supervisors will take a serious blow. If your organisation catches you in the act it can be grounds for dismissal.

Social media provides a window into the lives of friends and strangers alike. Just as fences make good neighbours, curtains make good windows. Making use of your privacy settings and using common sense when posting online can save your career.

Craig Poku
27th March 2017

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