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Social Media: The Double Edged Sword in Your Job Search

What Is Social Media?

Most people know about the most popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn. These sites work great as places to post comments and to stay in touch with friends, family and to network with business associates. But they can also work against you if you post too much information about yourself and your after work activities. Depending on how you use it, social media can help you get ahead of the competition or eliminated in the job race.

Using Social Media to Hire and Fire

Ethical or not, the reality is that employers will continue to use social media to monitor their candidates and employees. Recruiters use social media to recruit candidates by posting jobs on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Social media is here to stay.

Further, some recruiters claim that checking out a candidate on social media, such as Facebook, is due diligence. After all, they don’t want to hire or retain someone who drinks all weekend long and may come to work hung-over. Or someone who has obvious biases noted on his or her social media page. While most employers won’t openly admit they are checking out your social media posts, it can and does influence their decision to hire or fire you.

For example, on October 2010, Mariana Cole-Rivera, a domestic violence advocate at the group Hispanics United of Buffalo, started the Facebook thread that got her fired. She wrote, “Lydia Cruz, a coworker feels that we don’t help our clients enough at HUB. I about had it! My fellow coworkers how do you feel?”

Within minutes, HUB colleagues began posting supportive comments. By Tuesday, Cole-Rivera and four of the co-workers who’d responded to her Facebook post had lost their jobs. Their employer stated their Facebook thread violated HUB’s harassment policy by disparaging a co-worker. The workers took their case to the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency charged with interpreting and enforcing U.S. labor law. A judge took their side, but now the case is on appeal.

You might think the First Amendment will protect you in such an instance, but it doesn’t. The Constitution protects free speech from government interference. The courts have made management discretion the rule in the private sector. Except for employees who work for the government or belong to a union, anyone can be fired or disciplined for almost anything they say, at and after work. The moral of the story, writer beware.

How You Can Use Social Media to Improve Your Professional Career

To begin with, it’s naïve to think that recruiters and employers will not use social media to check up on you and your activities. With that in mind, you need to approach social media and your job or career by keeping your personal life, well— private.

The only exception to this simple rule is to publicly share any activities that will reflect well on you as a person or a worker. For example, do you participate in a race for a disease or contribute your time to a worthy cause? If yes, then share your heart out!

And of course, use social media to familiarize yourself with an organization you are considering working for. It will show initiative and dedication to the company and your desire to help them grow. All positives on your side!

Protect your Privacy

So how do you keep overly curious employers from prying into your life? It’s important to keep your social media profile away from the prying eyes of co-workers or employers, avoid using your private social media accounts during work hours and do not give your employer the passwords of any of your private social media accounts. Employers are not legally allowed to require passwords form their candidates or employees.

Employers will continue to use social media as part of their recruitment process as long as people are willing to publicly share their personal lives. Being conservative about what you publicly share online will become increasingly important for people searching for a new job or looking to advance their careers. So when it comes to posting public comments on your social media profiles, the golden rule is—when in doubt, don’t!

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