Social Media Content Could Make, Break Professional Life
A Texas teenager was fired in early February after publicizing her discontent on twitter about starting a new job the next day. Another employee saw the tweet and informed the franchise owner, who promptly took to Twitter to fire the teen in a reply.
Controversy quickly ensued, with a number of people in the Twitter-sphere advocating for the teen’s freedom of speech and calling out “the snitch.”
Do you remember your last tweet? What about last month’s Facebook or Instagram posts? It is all out there somewhere, and employers very well may see something that could hurt their opinion of you.
Tyler Willingham, a senior in marketing and a peer career adviser, was curious to know exactly what an employer's goal is when perusing a prospective employee's social media. After speaking with a mentor from a previous internship Willingham held, he found his answer.
“It’s not really an issue of what they look for,” Willingham said “but what they try not to find.”
Career Services interim director Stephanie Kit said some of the things employers hope not to find are pictures and posts involving alcohol or drug usage, negative comments about a current or previous employer and any discriminatory content.
“They’re looking at people’s character and making sure that they’re not seeing obvious character flaws,” Kit said.
As in the case with the Texas teen, though, some people express that no one should have to employ self-censorship because of freedom of speech. Kit, however, suggested being reasonable.
“You have to decide, is it more important for you to speak that idea and have it potentially negatively impact your career goals, or do you feel like (you) can say that privately to (your) best friend or mom and not broadcast it,” Kit said.
Both Kit and Willingham advised that users should ensure the veracity of their background information, put forth a professional image and be sure that their communication skills are presented in a positive light.
Additionally, Kit said users might consider posting about topics relevant to their field of interest and sharing personal victories, like acing final exams.
Following these guidelines, Kit explained, should help to ensure that social media usage does not detract from a user’s redeeming qualities.
For users who do not air on the side of caution, though, there could be a price to pay.
Without going into the specifics, career specialists, Jackie Coward and Becky Herndon, at the Tennessee Career Center confirmed that they have seen instances in which employers had not considered applicants due to findings on the applicants’ social media accounts.
Even so, some employers do not consider social media when assessing applicants.
Lindsey Sharp is employed at Target as a Human Resources Clerical and is responsible for hiring. Sharp explained that she does not look at social media during the hiring process. Instead, her focus is primarily on applicants’ job experience.
Once employed, however, Sharp said there could be consequences for inappropriate remarks made online.
“If somebody were to say something defamatory on social media, there can be repercussions,” Sharp said.
Ultimately, there is much more that comprises a company’s outlook on a potential employee than social media alone. A negative presence online can, however, color that outlook.
“Social media can be anywhere from harmful to helpful and all in-between,” Kit said. “It can work to the advantage of job seekers if they use it well.”
Both Kit and Willingham encourage students to utilize privacy settings and to think before posting.
By Michael Lipps, posted on utdailybeacon.com