Social media can help you network and even find a job, but it can also hurt your career, particularly if you are one of the millions of “oversharers” out there. In this era of Facebook and Twitter, it’s perfectly acceptable to post your thoughts or status, even if it’s every ten minutes, but job seekers and the employed have to be careful about what and who they are sharing with.
“It’s not oversharing in general that will hurt you; it’s sharing information that makes you look like you’d be a bad hire,” says Vinda Rao, the marketing manager at Bullhorn, a recruitment software company. “Companies won’t care if you’re oversharing photos of a Habitat for Humanity house you helped build. They’ll care if you’re sharing your innermost thoughts on political matters or if you throw around racial epithets.”
For people looking for a job, it’s expected that your potential employer will do a Google search and visit your social media pages before having you in for an interview. Rightly or wrongly, many employers will skip over those job candidates that have social media pages full of inappropriate content whether its pictures of a potential employee slugging down shots or negative commentary about other people. While it’s hard to undo what is already out there online, career experts say there are ways for oversharers to manage their social media profiles without hurting job prospects.
“The biggest thing is to make sure you are aware of the privacy settings and use them,” says Pamela Skillings, co-founder of job coaching firm Skillful Communications. “You don’t have to give up social media, but you have to understand what’s available publicly can hurt you in the professional side of your life.” And it’s not only job seekers that can see their social media profiles burn them. Many bosses will check in on their employees’ Facebook and Twitter pages and would likely look down on pictures of their employee partying when he or she called out sick. A great way to prevent a boss from busting you is to avoid friending the boss to begin with. If you have to include your boss in your social networks make sure he or she isn’t part of your private, personal group.
In addition to making sure your privacy settings are turned on, job hunters and the employed need to stop and think before they post something in social media. According to Mark Jaffe, president of Wyatt & Jaffe, the executive search firm, people have to ask themselves if is this something they would want their parents, children or boss to see and if the answer is yes, then post away. But if you think this would remotely offend someone in your network it’s a good idea to steer clear of whatever it was you were thinking of sharing. “The two pillars of wisdom are having something excruciatingly diabolically clever to say and pillar number two is not saying it,” says Jaffe. “If it’s purely personal don’t let anyone see your stuff unless they are a friend.”
In today’s world, whatever you say on the Internet will likely follow you, but you can clean up your Facebook and Twitter account to make it a little bit harder for a hiring manager to discover any inappropriate content. According to Rao, it’s a good idea to delete posts and tweets that would make you look untrustworthy, lazy, immature or overzealous. It’s also smart to untag yourself from any pictures on your friend’s walls that would portray you in an unfavorable light. If you are still concerned, take down your Facebook page and use LinkedIn only and keep it professional.
At the end of the day, the best defense is to stop oversharing altogether. Sure, it may be hard to wean off constant posting and tweeting, but career experts say oversharing is not only annoying to the people around you but it can also makes you appear weak. If you can’t curb the urge to share every few minutes than at the very least share things that will make you look informed and like an expert in your chosen career. For instance, if you are looking for a job as an accountant or you are already employed in that profession, retweet articles about changes to accounting laws instead of what you did over the weekend. If you are trying to land a fashion-related job then post style tips on your Facebook wall. “Being professional means not alienating people or talking their ear off about stuff they don’t care about,” says Rao. “If you wouldn’t benefit from saying something long-winded to a co-worker or boss in person, doing so on social media certainly won’t help you.”