Social Media Can Ruin Your Career Chances, If You Let It

Terri Davis magazine

man with underwear on his headPoor social media habits might keep you from being hired.


It used to be that we could be dumb in private and no one knew. Maybe you got too drunk on your sister’s big wedding day; maybe you had an axe to grind on the way home from work over something that happened at work; maybe you have strong opinions on politics that you’d argue with friends and family about. Up until quite recently, all of this would happen in the blissful anonymity of pre-social media.

Today, all of this and more can be found online. And it follows you around. Forever. Sure, if you post something embarrassing, ridiculous, or downright shameful, you can delete it. But it never really goes away. And with delightful free tools like Wayback Machine, you can find out an awful lot about people and their pasts.

Social media might just ruin your career if you let it.

Not only are there billions of posts made across social channels every day, many of them are regrettable. I’m sure you can think of an example, maybe even close to home with someone you know. Most lives are an open book online now, but is this a truly good thing for your career? Here are some things to consider before you post that shot of you and your buds doing shots, shots, shots, and wearing your underwear as a hat at the end of the night.

Your potential employer will look at your social media. Maybe this doesn’t bother you, maybe it does. But one of the easiest and best ways to research anyone is how and what they post on their social platforms. Many people cultivate carefully conceived personal brands on social media. Many are less conscientious. If you are in line for any job, take a review of your social media and ask, ‘would I hire this person?’ That’s a good place to start.

Crazy days and nights are fine, but not everything needs to be posted. If you want to be seen swilling chardonnay in every third picture, that’s your business, but it might be one small thing keeping you from being hired.

Having strong opinions is a good thing, but you can’t know how everyone will react, so be aware. You might like a good twitter feud, and you might be justified and right, but you could also come across to a potential employer like a provocative bully. Again, be aware that what you say can always be misinterpreted and used against you.

Having fun on social media is part of the point of social media, but context is everything, and what you think is funny or ironic might offend another person. Be aware that people are as likely to be offended as they are to be entertained. Social media allows for a lot of judgement and critique of what you post and who you follow. You won’t have control over what your Facebook friends post, but be aware that your associations online can also come back to haunt you. Know who your friends are and don’t follow randoms.

Don’t limit your choices just by what you post online. I can’t tell you what to post, but you should post with the future in mind. Unless you always want to be remembered as that guy who wore his underwear as a hat at a legendary party, instead of the guy with the legendary career.

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