Your social media presence can either contribute positively to your career or damage it. Employers often check the social media presence of potential new hires and make judgements based on what they find. Often times these judgements directly affect their hiring decision.
While you exercise the right to express yourself freely, you should be aware of the potential negative impact that your social media postings can have on your current career and future opportunities. Here are key mistakes to avoid:
Making a Poor Online First Impression
The first impression employers or potential employers have of you now doesn’t come from your first meeting; your first impression comes from Google and the variety of social media channels we are all subscribed to. If the first few search results for your name are not the most flattering, then you will need to create new content to replace those search results. The same applies to Google images. Google images are often the most incriminating tool for current and potential employees.
People searching for you will rarely skip Googles first few results. Open an incognito window and google yourself. If the first few search results aren’t relevant professionally or not up to date, then get to work, it’s important that these networks provide a strong first impression.
Not Keeping Professional and Personal Separate
The clarity between personal and profession is becoming increasingly blurred, and social media is a prime example of this. Therefore, it’s critical to always keep public interaction professional; whether you are on Facebook, twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.
Your potential employer will extensively research on these sites before they hire you. Technology and the personal and professional spheres are more integrated than ever, and it's safest to assume that your social media persona is not separate from your professional persona.
Never post anything you wouldn't want a boss or prospective employer to see and always assume that, no matter how strict your privacy settings are, that your post will be seen.
Not Considering Your Audience or Context
Many times, even if a user isn't posting offensive or inappropriate content themselves, other users, for instance, their friends, family and other connections can inadvertently undermine their professional reputation online, because, on social media, it can be difficult to interpret contextual clues.
This can lead to some major misunderstandings and social faux pas if you post content in a professional context, which your friend isn’t wise to. They may reply with comments or other media content that's completely inappropriate.
When that audience is mixing personal and professional, you're going to introduce misunderstandings. The best way to avoid this is to keep them completely separated from each other.
The Permanence of Content
One of the most important things to remember about online content and content posted to social media is that it is permanent. Once something is posted, even if then deleted, it can always come back to haunt you.
One of the first things recruiters do is Google candidates and scour social media to get a sense of the candidate's personality and potential cultural fit with an organization.
Even if you have the right skills, experience, background and location. What a potential employer can see on your Facebook page can give them a reason for pause. Try to focus your content and posts on the industry or an area you're trying for.
If you're focused on getting a job in, say, IT, then share information and comment on happenings in the industry. That way, when a recruiter does see your profile, you instantly have credibility as someone who is interested in and engaged with the industry and major players.
Unbalanced Online Content
If your social networking connections are a mix of the personal and professional, you need to make sure you're not perceived as socialising over working.
You're not only being judged by the personal content versus professional content you post, it's also about the ratio of non-work-related posts that show up in your feed. If you are creating a large number of personal posts compared to professional posts, you may come across as someone who's not dedicated or serious about your job or professional responsibilities.
A good starting point is to make your content one-third interesting, one-third informative and one-third promotional.
Another common mistake is the timing of your social media activity. Because most online content is time-stamped, your current or future employer can easily determine if you're regularly posting online content during work hours, and depending on their policies, that can get you sacked.
Think wisely about when you post content on social media. Are you blogging or Facebooking during work hours when you shouldn't be? Your boss or a co-worker can easily catch on, landing you a warning or perhaps losing your job.