Whether you're a marketing manager or an engineer, social media is an essential part of growing your career today. After all, social media is a great place to establish your technical savvy and your industry expertise, just by retweeting the right people and posting helpful articles. Even people who do jobs that are located far away from the marketing and sales departments at the very minimum need a LinkedIn profile to stay in touch with recruiters and update links to portfolios.
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However, the instantaneous, public and connected nature of social media makes it just as much of a potential menace to your career as it is a boon. One inappropriate or misinterpreted tweet has ruined the careers of many public figures. It's also guaranteed a protracted struggle for younger people in the post-university job search. Let's take a look at a few key ways that social media can wreck your career, and how to avoid them.
Not Hiding Sensitive Facebook Posts
Sure, you may be passionate about that hot social-political-economic issue of the day, but do you really want your stance to get in the way of securing a job? While it's pretty blatantly illegal for employers to not hire or fire you for your views, that doesn't mean your posts won't at least subconsciously affect how they view you, especially if you're engaging in comments in an especially combative way.
The same goes for any posts that involve references to or photos of you partying hard. A current or potential employer who sees this may think you have a problem, or at the very least that you're irresponsible, whether you deserve this label or not. Just because they seem like a cool boss who's down with whatever, why test them?
How To Avoid It
First, take a browse through your Facebook profile to see how other people are seeing you. You can do this by going to your profile and clicking first on the settings icon and then on "View As". Check to see both what the public and what specific people see.
If you're friends with your employer, manager, or even any colleagues, it's a good idea to create a "Work" friends list just for them. This way, you can decide who will see what with every post. Creating a list is easy. Just head to the "Friends" section, click "Create List" and choose settings for it, like whether or not people on that list can see your photos. Then head to your boss' profile, click on "Friends," then "Edit List," and add them to the correct list.
Further guard your privacy with every single post by clicking on the "Friends" button in the status box and choosing who can see what you're about to write. From here, you can choose whether or not you want everyone (that is, the public) to see what you post, only you, or everyone but your acquaintances. By choosing the "Custom" option, you can add your new work list to the ban.
How To Embrace It
That said, don't let privacy concerns stop you from using Facebook to actively build (rather than, ahem, ruin) your career. When you've got industry news or an expert blogpost to share, make it public. That way both your current employer and the next one you go to will see that you're keeping up with the latest developments in your industry and that you're an expert at what you do.
Not Hiding LinkedIn Activity During A Job Hunt
These days, so much of the job search happens on LinkedIn. It's how recruiters find candidates and candidates find their ideal companies. However, using the platform can be a little bit tricky if you're connected with your current employer or manager, as they'll be able to see your activity. If you're updating your profile, adding a bunch of connections or, um, posting things like, "Looking for a new job — hit me up with leads", your boss is bound to catch your job hunting scent, both in their feeds and in the personalised emails they'll receive about your activity.
How To Avoid It
Head to the Settings section of your profile (under your far right profile photo in the top menu). Select "Turn On/Off Activity Broadcasts". Untick the box that allows LinkedIn to send messages about your activity to companies and people.
That's it. Go forth and job search in privacy.
How To Embrace It
Sometimes, letting your boss know you're on the hunt is an excellent way to negotiate a higher salary. If you like where you work and are confident they'll work to keep you, by all means, blast your job hunt activity out to them.
Even if this isn't what you're going for, an alternate takeaway from all of this is that it's a good idea to keep your LinkedIn profile updated and to consistently share expert articles and blogposts regardless of your job search status. Not only will this keep from raising your boss' suspicions in terms of activity level changes, but it's also just a good idea for building your expertise online, and it will keep you on recruiters' radars.
Not Restricting Tagging
Earlier this year, Twitter announced that photo tagging was now a "thing" on the platform, and lo! The Twittersphere rejoiced! Everyone, that is except, people who wanted to keep their personal lives separate from their work lives, and didn't really appreciate their friends uploading drunken photos from last weekend and tagging them publicly. The pitfalls here are well-travelled: inappropriate photos are unprofessional and can easily cost you a job, or prevent you from getting one in the first place. On a less embarrassing but still damaging level, organisers of events you attend during a job hunt can also tag you — which, you know, can look bad, especially if you're attending a competitor's job fair.
How To Avoid It
Click on the "Settings" icon. Choose "Security and Privacy" from the menu on the left-hand side of the page. Under "Privacy", there is a "Photo Tagging" section. Decide here whether you want to allow anyone to tag you, just your followers, or no-one at all.
How To Embrace It
If you're not actively job hunting and you don't have embarrassing friends, photo tagging can again be a great way to build your reputation online. You would, for example, want to allow photo tagging if you were giving many industry lectures or attending conferences. With photo tagging on, new contacts and audience members will do some of your branding for you, showing off to the world what you do and where you go. And of course, exposure has big payoffs.
Social media can make your career, but it can break it, too. With these tips in hand, you'll avoid pitfalls and make the most of the medium.
Beverley Reinemann is a freelance writer and blogger who spent three years travelling and working in Australia and New Zealand. Now back in London she splits her time between travelling, running her blog; Pack Your Passport, and her job in online marketing at Distilled.