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10 Mistakes to Avoid on Social Media while Employed or Job Hunting

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

In the age of Social Media everyone can see what you’re doing at all times. This is great as almost instantaneously you can see how your friend’s trip to Europe is, you can see your cousin’s new baby or you can see if “that guy” from college ever had a successful startup from the twenty different ideas he had. While social media can be a helpful tool for you to keep in touch with the people you want to keep in touch with it could also be a burden as your entire life becomes public. I’m willing to bet there are certain aspects of your life that you’d rather certain people not know about.

Most people really want to keep some sort of line between what their employer does or does not know about their personal lives. Certainly not adding your employer as a friend or follower would seem to help. However, this is not infallible. Many schools hold assemblies that drive home a crucial message to children, “What is on the Internet for a second could stay on it forever.” Once your post is live it is susceptible to being Re-Tweeted, shared or screenshot. Thus it’s crucial to really think about what you post keeping this in mind. It’s also crucial to note what employers might find acceptable or unacceptable on social media. In order to keep yourself out of hot water with work it’s important to avoid making the ten mistakes listed below. Here are the mistakes to avoid on social media.

1. Inappropriate Content- It’s important to note that no one is perfect and that we all makes mistakes we’re not proud of. However, posting inappropriate things on social media makes it seem like you ARE proud of your mistakes. Posting pictures of yourself under the influence, in inappropriate attire or making an offensive joke on social media may be a bad look while employed or looking for a job. It may seem picky or it may seem like your employer may think that you need to be a robot at all times, but remember that they have a brand to protect. Nobody wants to own the company or manage the branch of “that employee”. One may ask themselves how they can know what is appropriate or inappropriate to post. The best advice I’ve ever heard was at an assembly for a Middle School class. A local police officer shared “The Grandma Rule”. Before posting ask yourself how your grandmother would feel if they saw what you were about to share. If that thought makes you uncomfortable then perhaps it is best not to post it. The rule allows you to filter through questionable posts.

2. Confidential Information Leakage- This may seem like common sense, but as the adage goes common sense is not very common these days. If information in your company is listed as classified do not list it or even allude to it in a social media post. This is crucial to note because in 2020, around 25% of leaked records came from database breaches among social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and the numbers skyrocketed in 2022 to a rate of about 41% according to a report from ForgeRock. Sometimes you don’t even need to post explicit information for a leak to happen. Many these days are very good about putting the pieces of the puzzle together and if you work for a major company anything that resembles a potential headline could be devoured by local or even national media. What stays a secret is meant to be a secret and information gets shared rapidly.

3. Negative Comments about Colleagues or the Company Itself- As the old Blink-182 song goes “Work sucks, I know”, but that doesn’t mean that you have to publicly admit those feelings on an open forum for the world to see. We all get frustrated from our work, but making a disparaging comment about the co-worker that is on your case or the boss that seemed to micromanage you on a certain day is no way to go about dealing with those frustrations. Again what you share on social media can get around easier than you might think. You could be mutual friends with someone that co-worker knows or someone from your industry that you may not be aware of may see the information as many times we don’t know who exactly is following us. The healthiest way to let out frustration is to vent to someone in person who you trust. Never leave a paper trail of an off day.

4. Constant Social Media Distraction- Everything has a place in moderation and social media is no different. It’s great to see what friends are up to and it builds a connection even if they are far away. However, the amount of time Americans spend on social media is very excessive. According to a study by Uswitch the average American spent a total of 1,300 hours on Social Media per day with Facebook leading the way with just under an hour of use per day. With all the responsibilities an average person has personal social media usage seems to have some bled into professional lives and responsibilities. The constant exposure may also lead to poor mental health. As the saying goes the most productive employees are the happiest.

5. Poor Grammar or Spelling- While it might not seem like the biggest deal to not be a grammar wizard outside of the professional setting, it does come across as a bad look for a company if they are employing someone who has atrocious grammar. Companies want to have the image of having smart, capable employees and spelling words so incorrectly that they take new meaning certainly won’t help matters if one makes the connection between employer and employee.

6. Political or Controversial Statements- Everyone has their own religious and political beliefs. Many have used their social media as a sounding board to make those beliefs heard. While the first amendment gives you the right to speak freely it is important to note that in many cases that only allows you to speak freely without criminal punishment in the private sector. Many employees have faced consequences including termination for expressing their political beliefs. An example of this came in 2020 when Maryland state official Arthur Love was fired for a politically charged comment relating to the Kenosha shooting that summer. He sued unsuccessfully for compensation re-affirming the precedent that your freedom of speech may have other consequences.

7. Oversharing Personal Information- Social Media in many cases is supposed to be light when it comes to sharing information about yourself. Running your first half marathon? Totally appropriate! You vomiting during that marathon? Maybe not. It’s important to avoid taboo topics while posting online. Financial problems, health issues and relationship drama that is posted may make you look weak at best and unhinged at worst. It should be noted that the Internet is not your therapist!

8. Falsifying Information- Honesty is the best policy! On sites like LinkedIn it is very inappropriate to lie about certifications, awards or degrees you have received. Lies usually get covered eventually and could be grounds for termination and in a much more severe sense could blacklist you from your industry if the lies are impactful enough. Legal action could also be taken if you received compensation and/or hurt company image with falsified information.

9. Bad Social Media Etiquette- Like baseball , while using social media there are a few unwritten rules. It’s important not to get caught into the drama of social media and hurl insults at people who may have different opinions as you. Social media fights may make you look immature if posted on a public forum. When responding to a potentially inciting social media post it’s best to take some time and not react emotionally. If the post still bothers you it’s better to reach out on a more private forum rather than airing out dirty laundry for everyone (especially employers) to see. You also have to be careful to avoid common forms of social media harassment. If you’re reaching out using social media for business related tasks or to reach out to leads it’s important to not over communicate where it feels like spamming. For personal use two terms you need to be familiar with are doxing and catfishing. Doxing is the act of publishing someone else’s private information for the world to see online. Catfishing is pretending to be someone else in order to gain something from another person (whether that be money, information or embarrassment). Both doxing and catfishing are important to avoid as this makes you look severely irresponsible and you may even face legal consequences in civil court.

10. Thinking Social Media Posts will Disappear- Anything you say or post on social media could potentially be brought back up. It doesn’t matter if it’s been weeks, months or in some cases even years. In 2019, 24-year-old Carson King showed up at College Football Game Day in Ames, Iowa with a sign asking for money to buy beer with his Venmo handle displayed proudly. He raised over $100,000 and decided that the money would be better given to an Iowa Children’s hospital. He then raised over one million dollars after the cause changed. King received very positive press and was offered free beer for a year from Anheuser-Busch. It was going well for King until an Iowa reporter dig up tweets from King when he was 16. The tweets were labeled racist and offensive and King lost his beer deal and faced negative criticism by some. This extreme example paints the picture that what you say even when you were much younger can and will be judged. If you reached the point of your life where you are employed it may be wise to do a “social media scrub” and clear or delete any posts that you are not proud of.

Avoiding the mistakes listed may seem like you may be doing too much to protect yourself online. However, keeping a clean social media record is crucial because employers, both current and potential, have eyes on your social media profiles. In a study by Zippia, 67% of employers use social media sites to research potential job candidates and 54% of companies surveyed have eliminated at least one job candidate based on their social media feed. In a highly competitive job market in the business world you cannot let your social media habits or history be the difference from being the hire or not. When job searching or employed it is always wise to control what you can control and social media habits are something easily in your circle of control.

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