Odds are good you're involved with some form of social media. Maybe you spend your free time tweeting on Twitter or perhaps you prefer looking up old friends on Facebook. It's a great idea to be involved with social media and it may even help you with your job search networking - but beware. There are countless horror stories of people who lost their jobs or lost their chance at a job because of what they said when they thought no one was listening. Here are some rules to follow to make sure that social media doesn't ruin your job search.
Never trash talk your job or a potential job
It's an all too common problem. You're having a bad day at work and just need to blow off some steam but instead of calling a friend to vent, you update your Facebook status to say something snarky about your job. On Twitter, the popular website that allows you to post short text messages, someone types "I hate my job" every five minutes. While telling the world that you dislike your employer may seem harmless, it could end up costing you a job.
A candidate for a job at corporate giant Cisco was trying to decide whether or not she should take the job she'd been offered. Instead of discussing it with friends or family, this person decided to discuss it with the world and posted the dilemma on Twitter.
She said “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work." Definitely not something any employer wants to hear about a potential employee. Within hours, a person who worked for Cisco found the not-so-polite tweet and responded “Who is the hiring manager. I'm sure
they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”
Take a lesson from this person's mistake. Never, ever say anything bad about the company you work for, used to work for, or might work for. You never know who might be looking at what you're saying.
It might seem like a silly thing to you, but cursing can be a big deal when you're looking for a job. If potential employers see that you have a potty mouth they may hold it against you, especially if you're going to be working around customers or with children. If you wouldn't say it in front of your whole family (including Grandma) or in a job interview, then don't broadcast it across the Internet.
A bank intern named Kevin learned the hard way that lying and social media are never a good mix. He sent an email out letting his bosses know that he had a family emergency in New York and needed to be out of the office for a few days. While he was gone, he posted pictures of himself on Facebook at a Halloween party, dressed in a fairy costume and holding a beer and a wand.
His boss, understandably unhappy, copied the fairy picture into an email and wrote him back saying "Hope everything is ok in New York. (cool wand)." He also copied the email to the entire company and then fired the intern. Not only did Kevin's picture make the rounds on the Internet (which is pretty embarrassing), he also lost all credibility. No employer who knows about the story will ever believe him when he says he has a family emergency, even if it's true.
He's not the first person to get caught in a lie and definitely won't be the last. But take a lesson from Kevin and don't lie to your bosses. Social media makes it easier than ever to get caught.
Make your accounts private
A simple way to help keep your private life and public life separate is to make sure that all of your accounts are set to private. MySpace, Facebook and even Twitter all offer the option of keeping your personal information just that - personal. On Facebook and Twitter, you can click "settings" to make sure only your friends can see your Facebook page and your Twitter updates. On MySpace, your privacy settings can be changed by selecting "edit my profile," "account settings," and then "privacy".
But it's not 100 percent foolproof. Anything you post will still be seen by your friends, which can include co-workers and bosses. And these privacy settings can't stop your friends from posting inappropriate comments and pictures on their public profiles about you. A British teen was fired after she updated her Facebook status to say "Bored at work." Even though she never mentioned what company she worked for, it still was enough to get her canned. Making your account private is a great idea and can help keep your exploits hidden but isn't a guarantee. It's much better to just not post inappropriate things to begin with.
Google yourself from time to time
It's a good idea to see how much of your personal information is out there. Occasionally searching for your name and nicknames is a good way for you to see exactly what an employer would see if they searched for you. Who knows? There may be an old account that needs to be shut down or maybe there is someone with the same name as you trolling the blogs. It's better to know about any potentially harmful bits of info before a prospective employer sees them so you can address the problem properly. Even if you're pretty sure you're safe, it never hurts to check.
Remember, online privacy is an illusion
The Internet is forever. No matter how private you keep your settings, you always run the risk of a potential employer seeing something about you you'd rather have kept to yourself. What you consider a hilarious picture now may be embarrassing in five years. Not only that, but it could cost you a job. You want to put your best foot forward when trying to find a job, which means you'll need to manage your online reputation now.