It’s nothing new that social media is a deeply-integrated part of modern life — especially among members of the younger generations — but what you might not realize is how your personal life can (and often will) affect your professional life.
Almost half of all companies now screen potential employees’ social media profiles prior to hiring someone, so if you’re on the hunt for a new job, that’s something to keep in mind. ResumeBear recently posted a blog on 20 Things Job Seekers Should Never Tweet About, and while many of the items on the list are common sense, some of them are, unfortunately, common mistakes. For example: “Refrain from making negative comments about coworkers,” “Don’t mention how bored you are at work,” and “Refrain from making discriminatory remarks.”
These might seem like innocent posts, especially in the heat of the moment, but anyone looking at your collective tweets or Facebook statuses, as an employer is likely to do, will get a less-than-ideal picture of who you are. Before you post that sarcastic comment or offensive joke, think about who could see it and what it says about you. After all, your boss or potential boss, no matter how long you’ve known them, will probably not appreciate the intricacies of your personality the same way your friends do.
Regardless of how you’re portraying yourself, what you post online can also reflect negatively on your employer, believe it or not. Most social networks ask you to list your job, and that connection can be viewed as you acting as a representative of your company. If you’re sharing sensitive information or revealing irresponsible behavior, it’s possible that your employer could be held responsible for your actions. By watching what you say and do when you’re online, you’re saving yourself and your employer a lot of embarrassment if your social media information gets in the wrong hands.
On the other hand, it’s not only what you post online; it’s also where and when. If you’re tweeting and Facebooking at work, regardless of what you’re posting, it can be viewed as a waste of company time and/or resources, especially if you’re using work computers. And multiple tweets throughout the day can certainly reflect negatively on your work ethic and productivity if a boss or fellow employee were to happen upon your profile.
In fact, your boss might not even be the main reason you should edit yourself online. Coworkers, former employees, and personal enemies all have the exact same access to your online profiles that your employer does; if you have poor social networking habits, you could be opening yourself up to those individuals’ unfavorable attention. It wouldn’t take much for someone with a vendetta to send an e-mail or letter to your employer detailing your tweets about potentially-sensitive information like company layoffs or your habits of stealing office supplies.
Nothing is irreversible, however; if you’ve made social media mistakes in the past, you can go back and change them pretty easily. Start by doing a Google search for you name. Searching for your name in quotation marks will get you more accurate results to help you find places online where your name has been used (by yourself or others). You can then go through your search results and delete questionable content from your various profiles that pop up (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn are all accessible to Google and other search engines, and they’re the first places anyone’s going to look if they’re hunting for dirt on you).
Your next step might be to tighten the security of your social media profiles, restricting access to only the people you approve. It might not look friendly if your Facebook profile is private, but it could save you a lot of grief in the long run.
Furthermore (and it should go without saying), you’d be wise to read through your employee manual one more time to refresh your memory and to make sure you’re not violating any policies with your actions.