Erin’s Blog

Facebook: Making A Mess Of Your Career

We all have a Facebook page. Well, I’m assuming we all have one. I have one; both of my siblings have one. All of my friends have one. Even my 50+-year-old mother has one! They’re a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, make professional contacts, and share personal photos and ideologies. What’s the big idea?

If you start abusing the share-power of your Facebook, problems arise. Ali Hale’s article Make Sure Your Facebook Profile Doesn’t Lose You A Job is just one of many pages on the Internet warning young professionals and recent college graduates of the dangers Facebook may have.

Employers are increasingly using Facebook (and other social networking sites) to check up on potential and current employees. People have been disciplined at work, have missed out on job positions, or have even been dismissed due to comments they’ve left on Facebook and similar sites.

What are we to do? Hale explains:

Step 1: Check Your Privacy Settings

What are your Networks? Hale’s was both her university, Cambridge, with 44,000, and London, with 3 MILLION people. Obviously there are a lot of people she may not want viewing her profile. Tighten those networks up, change your privacy settings. Don’t allow everyone in your networks to see everything. There are a lot of potential bosses and contacts in those networks that don’t need to see what you were doing last weekend. Make it so only friends can see your updates, etc.

Step 2: Cleaning Up Your Profile

Things that seem perfectly innocent or funny to you may be the exact reason an employer passes you up for a job.

The top ten turn-offs for employers on social networking websites are:

 1.      References to drug abuse

2.      Extremist/intolerant views, including racism, sexism

3.      Criminal activity

4.      Evidence of excessive alcohol consumption

5.      Inappropriate pictures, including nudity

6.      Foul language

7.      Links to unsuitable websites

8.      Lewd jokes

9.      Silly email addresses

10.  Membership of pointless/silly groups

Why bother going through your old photos/updates and changing things? Well, as Hale mentions, there are consequences. Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank, was fired after he “told his employers he had a family emergency, but [his] Facebook page revealed he had, in reality, been cavorting in drag at a Halloween party.” Or Kyle Doyle, a 21-year-old resolutions expert for telecommunications firm AAPT; he bragged about his day off on Facebook site after telling his boss he was away for “medical reasons.” “Kyle Doyle is not going to work, f*** it I’m still trashed. SICKIE WOO!” was listed under his status update for the day, which his boss saw, and he was fired!

Even if you’re not lying or cheating your way out of work, people can get into serious work trouble for simpler things. One British news post explained that Kimberley Swann, a 16-year-old working at a marketing and logistics firm, wrote on her wall that her job was “boring.” After allowing colleagues access to her site, it was passed on to her boss and she was fired for the remark. Seriously, watch what you say on these sites, employers take it seriously.

I wonder what they found on HIS Facebook page...

I wonder what they found on HIS Facebook page...

But are companies allowed to snoop through online material for things that wouldn’t normally come up in a job interview? According to writer Wei Du’s article Job candidates get tripped up by Facebook, the Ponemon Institute, a privacy think tank, conducted a survey in which “35% of hiring managers use Google to do online background checks on job candidates and 23% look people up on social networking sites. About one-third of those Web searches lead to rejections.”

Sue Murphy, a director of National Human Resources Association explains, “big corporations long have retained professional investigators to check job applicants’ academic degrees, criminal records and credit reports. But until now the cost has deterred the ability of smaller firms to do the same level of checking.”

So remember, although it may be hilarious to you and your friends to put up a picture of you giving a lap dance or doing an impromptu striptease or keg stand at a party, employers will frown on it. A good rule of thumb: take off anything that may dirty up your reputation. Always be “the good little boy/girl” that your mom describes you as and make her, and employers, proud!