Facebook: Friend or Foe? – Navigating Social Media While Protecting Your Career

According to a survey of data collected from Facebook, young individuals (defined as 18-29 years of age) average 16 colleagues from work as “friends”. Interestingly, while there still seems to be a slight separation of work from personal life, there is an increasing mélange of the two. While seemingly innocent, this could pose some potential problems.

Let’s admit it. We are all on Facebook and numerous other social networks and we check them on a fairly regular basis. Smartphones and tablets and other technology make it even easier to do so. But it also increases the risk of affecting our reputation when your current or potential employer sees that you “checked in at XYZ bar” last night for 4 hours.

To start, while you may be friendly with your colleagues, often you are competing for the same promotions, raises, etc. As they say, money is the root of all evils, and what you post on the different social media networks could have a detrimental effect. While not accusing everyone of being a backstabber, you need to keep in mind that while your “profile” setting may be private, your colleagues may have other settings, allowing current and future employers to view pictures, comments, and other information you intended to keep private. Keep in mind that you don’t know who is checking your colleague’s profile and office gossip is always there. Whether intentionally or through the grapevine, there is a strong likelihood that your employer will find out.

Speaking of seeing the information you intend to keep private, employers are checking! Surveys indicate that a high number of large corporations are doing their homework and checking the social networks for potential hires. In a sense, it is a new age background check. Like everything else, numerous companies have jumped on the bandwagon to make things simpler. There are many (inexpensive) programs out there that allow employers to locate social network profiles and gain complete access to them, and the affordability of the programs have allowed small businesses to follow suit.

Yes, this means they can see information and photos you thought were private and even things you believed were deleted. Further, a large percentage of companies (both large and small) surveyed admit to having social networking policies in place. These policies are typically limited to accessing social networks during work hours, but other companies inform employees that they are monitoring the profiles. Without going into the potential legality of it because it doesn’t matter; the point is, it is happening.

Now, what does this all mean? The truth is there are many benefits to social media and we don’t recommend deleting your profiles completely. In fact, many candidates are found for positions off these very sites. Having said that, take the proper precautions. Realistically we all form friendships with colleagues and at some point make the friendship “Facebook Official”. Because of that, we need to be mindful. Posting a picture to your album will be like posting it in the company’s weekly newsletter. Make sure you maintain your privacy settings and most importantly, monitor what can and cannot be posted to your profile by other people.

Don’t overlook the very simple conversation you can have with your friends to prevent some problems. Make sure they know you are looking for jobs or the importance of maintaining a reputation and ask them not to “tag” you in photos or avoid the postings of “wow, last night was epic!” Simply blocking everything the day or week before an interview will not hide it from potential employers so take the precautions early. On the upside, remember to use social networking sites as an extension of your resume. It can allow employers to see the personal side of you rather than simple work achievements. After all, employers are hiring the person, not the resume. Using simple judgment and common sense can go a long way in making social media sites an asset to your job search and not your worst nightmare.

 

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