Have you ever thought of Googling yourself to check what records are available online? We are so used to putting our lives and thoughts on social media these days that sometimes we’re unaware of our image, and of who might be watching…
The images above tell a true story: a trainee accountant tweeted having hit a cyclist with her car, to what she thought was a small number of Twitter followers/friends. However, and soon enough, her tweet went viral, resulting in the police picking up her tweet and investigating her for failing to stop and report the accident. She also lost her job as a result.
Social media has dramatically changed our lives: how we communicate with others, access news or even, campaign. It has had a massive impact on how businesses and even some well-known politicians engage with us. The above incident can give you an insight into how it can affect an online reputation and a career.
US and UK employers’ surveys show increased use of social media in recruitment of new staff. 70% of employers surveyed said they screened candidates’ social media and 43% acknowledged that they had checked current staff on social media (Career Builder, 2018). 50% of those employers polled said they were interested in candidates’ ‘professional persona’ online, whilst 24% of them searched candidates’ social media to find reasons why they should not hire a candidate. The same report also stated that the main reasons given by employers to reject a candidate based on their social media were inappropriate photos or posts (40%), discriminatory comments (31%) or lying about their qualifications (27%).
You might think ‘Those checks are intrusive: my Instagram or Facebook pages are part of my private life!' You are right up to a point, except that the boundaries between what is private and public online can be blurred. Anything you post online, can be viewed by anyone, so it would be in the public domain one way or another.
So, are we suggesting you stop using social media altogether? No, certainly not, as employers do consider a good online presence as a positive asset. Career Builder (2018) found that 34% of employers were impressed by the creativity exhibited on candidates’ social media. In many graduate roles, having a good, professional social media portfolio is a must. So social media can help you reap great benefits. It can also offer you great opportunities to connect with people that you would not have dreamt of meeting, without social media. But use your judgement as with anything in life and if in doubt, do not post it.
What can you do?
- Search yourself using either Google and Pipl. If you find something you are not happy with, try to remove it.
- Consider having professional and personal profiles and keep them separate.
- Even if you have separate profiles always check your privacy settings on your social media pages, but do not rely on them. You may not always have control over what you post to friends, who may decide to share that picture at that party. Pages may also become visible by accident. Remember, if it is online it is public.
- Think of yourself like a brand. Consider how you would wish to be seen online and what others would say about you when they look at your social media. Develop a consistent approach to presenting yourself and maintain it, just as you would a brand.
- Make sure it looks professional and consistent. For advice, contact the Employability Service: email@example.com.
- Be aware that you may be breaking the law by sending an angry post to someone or what you thought was a joke.
- Most importantly, think before you post or share.
Your online presence is your reputation and your brand! Look after it.
By Luisa Ares, Employability & Careers Adviser