insight magazine

Is Social Media Ruining Your Career?

It's not always just innocent fun. Here's what not to do on social media. By Derrick Lilly | Digital Exclusive - 2017

Social Media

Social networking, by all accounts, should make your career search easier. You’re able to instantly connect with employers, employees, recruiters, HR leaders, peers and pundits. Virtually effortlessly, you can learn the ins and outs of those organizations that interest you most. With a few quick clicks you can send off your résumé, LinkedIn profile, personal website and more to the masses and expand the reaches of your personal social media “brand.”

But what happens if you’re using social media in all the wrong ways? What happens if that emotional or political rant you posted for your “friends” to see shows up in the newsfeed of, say, your current or prospective employer?

“Your social media presence—and, really, your whole digital footprint—is no longer just an extension of your résumé. It’s as important as your résumé,” opines Patrick Gillooly in The New York Times. “Social media use is now a standard of the hiring process, and there’s little chance of going back.”

In fact, 96 percent of recruiters and companies use social media to vet candidates according to the 2016 Recruiter Nation survey by Jobvite, which also points out that 55 percent of recruiters have had to reconsider candidates based on what was found on their social media profiles. Some of their top turn-offs? Illegal drug references, sexual posts, poor spelling/grammar, profanity, and posts about guns and alcohol consumption.

“The first rule for any individual: You should always assume what you share on the Internet is public. Period. The end,” Courtney Shelton Hunt, Ph.D., tells SHRM Online.

“In a competitive job market, employers demand—and get—the very best of the best candidates who have squeaky clean online footprints. Therefore, you must be diligent in building and safeguarding your online reputation,” Meg Guiseppi adds in an interview for SHRM.

Which Social Networks Matter Most to Employers?

92% - LinkedIn

66% - Facebook

52% - Twitter

21% - Google+

15% - YouTube

Source: Jobvite

It’s not only job seekers who should mind their social media missteps, however; current employees also have a lot to lose—including their credibility and their jobs.

Take Pamela Ramsey Taylor, the now former director of nonprofit Clay County Development Corp. in West Virginia. Taylor lost her job after referring to Michelle Obama as an “ape in heels” in a politically charged Facebook post in November. While the post was deleted, screenshots already were taken and shared widely on social media, drawing increased scrutiny of both Ramsey Taylor and the organization she worked for.

And then there’s the case of Kaitlyn Walls of Colony, Texas, who, a little over a year ago, managed to lose her new daycare job before she even started it after venting on Facebook that, of all things, she hates working at daycares!

So what are we to do? If you want social media to work for you instead of against you, experts from around the Web advise avoiding these six gaffes:

1. Posting incriminating photos

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Excessive partying, illegal substances and overtly sexual or offensive photos can damage your credibility and employability. “In college, getting drunk is rewarded. But when you’re in a workplace, there are different consequences,” Michael Ball, founder of Career Freshman, told NBC News.

2. Posting when you should be working

It’s common sense, but if you called in sick, you shouldn’t be posting pictures of your walk with the dogs. What’s more, using social media during the workday could reflect poorly on you as an employee. “Are you blogging or Facebooking during work hours when you shouldn’t be? Your boss or a vindictive, catty co-worker can easily catch on, landing you a warning or a meeting with the HR department,” says CEO and co-founder of in CIO.

3. Complaining about your job

Unhappy with a colleague, client, manager or the company? It’s best to vent in a private domain. “Be very careful what you write,” Kathleen Lucas, labor and employment attorney at Lucas Law Firm in San Francisco, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Not only can there be consequences, you can really create a problem in your workplace.”

4. Bullying, trolling and making offensive comments

You can forget about anonymity on the Web, and you should expect to be outed pretty quickly for engaging in such activities. As noted earlier, posting inflammatory or controversial content is a quick route to a pink slip, especially when you consider that employers “are required by law to maintain a diverse and respectful workplace,” says Nicholas Woodfield, an attorney with The Employment Law Group in Washington, D.C., in an interview with the Associated Press.

5. Sharing confidential information

Accidentally outing your company’s secrets can be as easy as posting an update about your disappointment with a deal, project or promotion that fell through. “Often employees don’t recognize the crossover between their professional and personal worlds and the ways that seemingly personal updates can reveal business information,” notes corporate law magazine Inside Counsel.

6. Broadcasting your job search

Strategically using social media to find job opportunities and blatantly broadcasting your need to escape your current employer are entirely different things. If you plan to make extensive updates to your LinkedIn profile and connect with recruiters via this platform, for instance, consider turning off your status updates to avoid having your current employer being the wiser.

The moral of the story: “You need to realize that social media wields great power: What you say there — including saying nothing at all — has an effect on your network or on the employer who is checking out your Instagram account,” says Gillooly. “But remember that you control what people see. By being more judicious about what you share or by altering the platform settings where possible, you can manage your digital trail to increase the odds that a potential employer will form a positive impression of you.”


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  1. Alia Rachelina | Aug 17, 2021
    My perspective on this article is that social media has a good side and a bad side. With the media it can help our activities or desires easily, but it needs to be observed because the wrong use of social media can cause various problems, because of footprints and traces of using social mediacan be recorded easily and may cause serious problems,like losing this job for example.
  2. Dharma Dhyana | Aug 16, 2021
    Social media have a lot of benefits, but sometimes from all those benefits you can trapped yourself and get the side effects from it. For the example, on your career. Social media is a platform from the internet that is open for public, anything you posted it recorded and leaves a footprint no matter how hard you tried to hide it. Before you enter a certain job, most of the recruiter probably do some background checking including your social media. So, you have to be really careful of what you saying. For example, Posting incriminating photos, posting when you should be working, complaining about your job, Bullying, trolling and making offensive comments, Sharing confidential information and Broadcasting your job search can make your self-image looks really horrible or even unprofessional from the recruiter. There are no company who wants to put their company on a big risk by recruiting a bad employees. So you have to be more cautious on what you on what you are posting. In conclusion, it’s better not to say anything if there’s nothing worth for your good impression in public just because you have rights to post freely. 
  3. Rahayu dwi Sekar arum | Aug 16, 2021
    social media must be used properly, because not everything has to be exhibited, whether its a activities, work of whatever. 
  4. agustina | Aug 16, 2021
    wise in using social media because the impact is very large
  5. selvina yudhistira | Aug 16, 2021
    social media can give many benefit for you but if you use the social media with the wrong way it can againts you too because everything you write or upload on social media is going to be a digital footprint that cannot be erased and every one can see including your current and futere superiors, company, HR, etc. so you have to very carefully with your social media, dont post an incriminating photos, Bullying, trolling and making offensive comments.
  6. Marselina Titanni | Aug 16, 2021

    i agree with this article.. now in modern life, all people like addicted with social media.

    every moment always they record,they update,they take a picture, and the others comment,share with the other one ,so its spread out.

    i think our life is private and its not important for anyone to know.. bcs you cant trust anyone.

    sometimes when we meet bad people its our badluck, they can ruin your job even your life with your social media.

    but, i slightly disagree with this article.. bcs social media is booming, like now we live with social media.. when you use social media in right way.. its very helpful. 

    for the example, you can promote your online shop in social media.

    so,think smart when you use your social media.

  7. putri ayu kinanti | Aug 16, 2021
    In my opinion, social media has both good and bad effects, so we shouldn't abuse it Social media has many benefits such as for work, school and many others and we have to be careful in using social my opinion lest we all misuse social media
  8. Ahmad Rosyadi Abdillah | Aug 16, 2021
    we need to use social media wisely, because didn't know purpose of everone

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