Branding Yourself on Social Media
“Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.” – Erin Bury
Have you ever Googled yourself just to see what pops up? You can bet your potential employer has if they are interested in hiring you. And everything you Tweet or reTweet or Post or even Share leaves a digital footprint that’s getting easier and easier to find through simple internet searches. Whether you mean to or not, you are branding yourself on social media with everything you post, like, or share.
According to a survey by CareerBuilder, a whopping 70% of employers say that they “use social media to screen candidates before hiring.” Consequently, Training.com.au reported that 55% of hiring managers have reconsidered their decision to hire someone based on what they found on their social media accounts. Something as basic as your email address can seriously hurt your chances of getting an interview or a job with a company. Yes, I’m talking to you firstname.lastname@example.org who is trying to get a job in hospitality.
Back in the day, one of the biggest concerns about accidental tech was sending an email to your entire team or company rather than just one individual. These days, you don’t even need to know the people who are seeing your social media posting, but it can get back to your inner circle in record time. There’s a famous story about a PR Executive in 2013 who was boarding a plane to South Africa. This person tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” This is clearly inappropriate, but it’s not like she sent the message to any of her co-workers, let alone her bosses. She didn’t say anything disparaging about the company she was working for or about anyone she was working with. And she only had 170 followers on her account at the time. What could possibly result from that harmless tweet? By the time her plane landed, her phone had blown up with a barrage of texts and emails, including one from her manager to let her know she was fired.
Another tweet-gone-wrong came from a Texas teenager who tweeted to her friends how much she was NOT looking forward to her first day of work at a local pizza parlor. She expressed her lack of enthusiasm by tweeting “Ew I start this f*** a** job tomorrow” followed by a series of thumbs down emojis. It didn’t take long for the tweet to get back to her would-be boss who told her that she didn’t need to bother showing up for her first day.
Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be something that you posted personally that will get you into trouble. It’s all fun and games to prank someone who passed out at a drinking party. Well, a cheerleader for the New England Patriots took it to an unconscionable level when she drew several Nazi-themed symbols and anti-Semitic words on her inebriated friend. Others at the party documented the incident and those pictures ended up going viral on Facebook. The understandable ire from those who saw the post prompted the Patriots to fire the cheerleader.
Something else to be aware of is that everyone has a cell phone that can be used to record anything at any time and share it with the world in an instant. Even if you don’t post anything controversial, even if your friends or people you know aren’t the ones posting content about you, a perfect stranger can record your behavior that can impact your job status. During the American League Wild Card game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles, a drunk Jays fan threw a beer can that nearly hit one of Baltimore’s outfielders. It wasn’t long before the pressure from outrage on social media prompted the 41-year-old to turn himself in. He was charged with mischief, publicly humiliated, lost his job, spent nine months in court, and was temporarily banned from every stadium in Major League Baseball.
Also, be mindful of when you are posting to social media. It might be slow at work, but resist the temptation to post on social media when you should be working. Everything has a timestamp. If you have called out sick to work, but you’re really at the beach on a beautiful sunny day, you probably shouldn’t share any of that with anyone unless you are okay with your boss finding out. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 40% of workers admitted to calling in sick when they actually weren’t. That same report identified that 43% of employees have been caught lying about being sick because of their presence on social media. 12% actually lost their jobs.
This article isn’t meant to frighten you, but rather make you aware of the digital age we’re in. That being said, it’s becoming more and more common for people to abstain from all social media entirely. But social media is not inherently bad. In fact, it can be a very powerful tool and one of your best advocates for yourself and your company. Here’s a quick tip, though: if you are concerned at all about how you might appear to a professional company taking a look at your profile, change your view settings to private so only those in your immediate circle can see you. Just be aware that your friends and acquaintances might share or repost something you posted and they might not have the same privacy settings.
There is nothing wrong with having a personal social media presence. For most people, social media is a great way to keep connected with friends and family they don’t get to see every day, and a way to share what’s going on in your life with all the people you know in an instant. You can also use your social media as a tool to support your resume by strategically posting relatable content.
If you really want a position as an Implementation Consultant working with Acumatica ERP, for example, you should be following Acumatica and the companies you would like to work for who use Acumatica ERP. You should be liking their content and engaging in their posts. You should be bragging about your own accomplishments in your current position or ongoing training as they relate to the job or industry you want to work in.
A user on Imgur wanted a position at an ad agency. To get their attention, this candidate made a LEGO version of herself and created a series of LEGO-themed ads showcasing her skills and experience. Her ingenuity worked. The ad agency saw what she was creating and gave her a job.
Another great use of social media is networking. Research the companies you want to work for and begin building your network with professionals in the industry and at your desired companies. And then engage with them. Let them know who you are and why you’re connecting with them. Pay attention to their content and respond to their posts. Share similar content on your own social media. Making yourself standout amongst a bevy of applicants can be difficult. Having an inside connection when a position becomes available can make all the difference.
You don’t have to actively use your social media to try to land your next job. There is nothing wrong with relying on your work history and well-crafted resume complemented by your interviewing skills. However, you should still actively be aware of what your social media says about you. It might not help you get that job, but it can certainly cost you one. Personally, I have many interests and hobbies that I share with my friends and family on social media: I’m a sports blogger, a movie critic, an aspiring novelist, a theatre graduate, a short-story writer, and I enjoy boxing classes and hiking. And I post about all of those things. And I recently got a job that has nothing to do with any of those things. But, they show my personality. I got the interviews through some connections I had made through social media and I was being considered for the job because of the interviews I had with the company. While my social media didn’t secure my job, it definitely didn’t have anything that cost me this great opportunity.
The biggest takeaways regarding social media should be these: there is nothing inherently wrong with social media, you don’t have to use social media as a career tool, but be aware that it can cost you a career if you aren’t mindful about how you present yourself in your social media. So have fun, engage with your friends and family, share your likes and interests, get creative, just understand what you’re saying about yourself and who you could potentially be saying it to, i.e. everybody.