How your social media presence could be damaging your career chances

With the dawn of the 21st Century came what is proving to be the biggest social phenomenon of our time: social media. But as online social networking platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter exploded onto our computer screens and mobile devices so the world suddenly became a much smaller place. 

Recent studies show that over 90% of recruiters will look up potential candidates on social media, and with every post and picture leaving an indelible mark on our digital footprint, we have never been more exposed. 

Used wisely and social media will become your friend; it can be a showcase for potential employers to explore and make social media work for you as you navigate your career path.

However, use it carelessly and it will probably come as no surprise that some of what we choose to post online could be damaging our career chances. For example, did your boss – current or potential – really need to see that photo you posted on Friday night after a few too many Jaeger Bombs? Probably not. 

Here, we will examine the world of social media and find out how it can affect our career chances.


What does your social media presence say about you? 

The dictionary defines social media as “an online means of communication used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts”. Sounds great, doesn’t it? So what’s not to like? And with this world of social media at our fingertips, what could possibly go wrong? 

The three main players in today’s social media arena are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, not to mention a whole host of others – Instagram, Snapchat, Flickr and Tumblr to name a few. 

Facebook was founded in February 2004 by psychology student and keen computer programmer Mark Zuckerberg together with a group of college friends studying at Harvard University. Facebook quickly transformed from a successful social networking site to what is now undoubtedly the world’s biggest internet phenomenon, and at the end of 2016 it reported 1.79 billion active users on its books. 

The second most popular network today is reported to be business networking platform, LinkedIn. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn is a social networking platform which is specifically targeted at business professionals wishing to establish and move within networks of like-minded professional individuals. To date, LinkedIn currently boasts just over 450 million members.

Celebrity favourite, Twitter, follows hot on these heels with just over 300 million active monthly users. Describing itself as a ‘micro-blogging site’, Twitter is a popular news and social networking service which allows its members to post or “tweet” brief thoughts and opinions, limiting each entry to just 140 characters. Established ten years ago, Twitter has transformed the world of online commenting to become a prominent tool in the world of news, celebrity and most recently politics, with new US President-elect Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) standing as one of its most ardent protagonists #Yesreally! In fact, at the Inauguration Ball Trump was heard to ask the crowd if he should keep his Twitter account, stating that it was a way to bypass dishonest media.  He subsequently vowed to maintain his personal account instead of defaulting to the official @POTUS account and has now surpassed the 20 million followers mark, earning himself the title of the ‘Twitter president’ being discussed more than 10 times – and as often as all of the Kardashians put together!

When using social media one of the first things to bear in mind is to be aware of our digital footprint. A digital ‘footprint’ describes the trail or ‘footprints’ of personal information that we often unwittingly leave behind online. Every time we register for a forum, send an email attachment, upload images, videos or posts, we leave behind traces of personal information about ourselves which subsequently become available to others online. Remember that every ‘like’, comment or picture leaves a mark on our digital footprint enabling employers, existing or potential, to track us online in order to get a real insight into our character, and depending on what we have posted this is not always a good thing!

So now that we are aware of the possible pitfalls of our digital footprint, here are some more tips and hacks on how to stay social media savvy:

1    Think of social media as an extension of your CV; what you do say or post is just as important as what you don’t! If you wouldn’t put it on your CV then you probably shouldn’t be posting it!
2    Keep social media postings tame. Indeed some candidates who are actively seeking employment have been known to suspend or even delete accounts whilst job seeking.
3    Beware online rants. Thanking a company for a great service sends a positive message and spreads goodwill. A hot-headed rant, however, not only paints the target in a negative light but reflects badly on you, too. 
4    Be aware of the online privacy settings that are available and use them wisely. Remember they are a great start but there are no guarantees what employers may still get to see.
5    Always keep your profiles private – it’s easy to do and prevents unwanted attention!
6    Post photographs cautiously and don’t overshare. Well chosen pictures can enhance your personal profile giving employers an invaluable insight into your character. 
7    NEVER include pictures or video footage with alcohol.
8    Finally, be aware that social media is probably one of the first ports of call for employers these days. Never bad mouth them, don’t announce a forthcoming interview, pay rise or promotion and NEVER post about your job seeking exploits whilst you are still employed!

A compilation of well-written blogs, posts and articles, ‘professional’ photographs and relevant endorsements and recommendations will all send out a positive message to employers.

Social media can allow you to establish and grow a network within your particular field, connect with new and relevant contacts, share mutually beneficial information and join relevant professional groups. In doing so, you will create the persona of a confident, positive individual, with a clear mindset and strong opinion who is able to interact in a positive way and develop effective mutually beneficial relationships.

In short, you are extremely employable and worthy of that promotion BUT beware, sharing inappropriate pictures and comments on social media could cost you your job.

Just one more thing: don’t forget to delete THAT photograph, you know the one…. it doesn’t exactly scream management material!

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