If you are on social media then chances are your employer has looked you up on more than one occasion. This may be to check up on your before hiring or simply as a way to monitor your professionalism whilst working for the company. But, can this level of exposure from your social media have an effect on your career?
The simple answer: yes, social media can have a negative impact on your career. Here are a few examples of why:
Complaining about your boss on Facebook is probably the worst thing that you could do on social media, which is often what catches a lot of people out. Yes, venting can be a great way to relieve stress, but is it really worth your job? Probably not.
Your posts may even be safe from your boss, but don’t discount your co-workers telling tales about you. If you have anyone on your social networks from work, then professionalism is a must at all times – better safe than sorry!
If you do have a grievance then think before you post. In the same time it takes you to post, you could either find yourself in unfavourable waters at work or you may find the irritation has passed. The latter is a much better option than the former.
This encompasses swearing, racial slurs and the like, but it also includes ‘text speak’. Employers may see you writing in a less than perfect manner online and equate it to a sloppiness that will translate into your working life. Correct spelling and grammar cost nothing, so use it to keep up a professional demeanour online and it may even get you a job one day!
In the same way, unprofessional comments or language can also be a huge negative for your career. Whether it is overly negative, racist or in poor taste your employer could see it as reflecting badly on their company. For many, they see their employee’s as an extension of their brand and misrepresenting it on your social media can lead to your termination.
A rule of thumb for social media is if you wouldn’t say it at work, then you should not post it online.
This isn’t a case of posting a quote from your favourite author, always acceptable so long as you give credit, however, outright stealing someone else’s work can be. This can be copying a popular Facebook or Twitter text post, or it could even be a simple case of posting a photo or art piece without giving the artist due credit.
There are many people on social media who share content every day that is without credit to the original creator. For the most part, it goes unnoticed, but if you work in a creative industry or similar then doing so on your personal social media can come across as bad practice. If it were to translate into your professional work then it would cause issues for your employer.
Always giving credit for the thing you post or share should be a standard practice, as it shows a moral sensibility and good practice. Both of which are key factors any employer is looking for. Even on your social media.
Whether you are having a casual glass of wine or a few more, showcasing it on social media may not be the best idea. It depicts a sense of lack of professionalism and can even be deemed to be affecting your performance at work if you post this material too much. Illegal substances mentioned, depicted or even liked in any form can translate into an immediate termination.
It may not even be your employer who directly frowns on this behaviour, as a complaint from customers can lead to a suspension (or more typically from parents in schools, patients in hospitals, etc.). Leaving alcohol and other substances out of the picture when it comes to your social media is a good rule of thumb.
No Social Media
What, not having social media at all can have an impact on your career? Unfortunately, yes.
When hiring a candidate some employers like to scope out the candidate first and see if they are the right fit for the company. For some employers finding you don’t have social media – or at the very least have managed to hide it very well – can be negative towards your application. But, why?
Many employers, right or wrong, now use social media to check candidates are who they say they are before extending a job offer. This could be checking on their credentials (often via LinkedIn – endorsements from former colleagues help), personality fit, a professional image (i.e. no alcohol all over social media), and even to see their talents and creativity in some cases. Not having a gauge for these factors can make an employer uneasy to hire you.
If you don’t have or want social media then this can be a tricky issue to navigate. The simplest solution is to create a LinkedIn account and have this purposefully on your CV. If social media isn’t your thing, then simply think of this professional networking site as a way to simply host your CV online.
What To Do?
If you are suspended or even fired for social media activity, what can you do? In many cases, an employer’s perception of acceptable social media conduct will not be fully explicit in your employee handbook. ‘Acceptable social media activity’ is a very broad term after all and you may be punished for something you didn’t even realise was against policy.
If social media misconduct is not clearly outlined, with examples, in your employer’s discipline and grievance policy then you need advice on how to proceed. In this case, consulting dispute resolution lawyers is vital to protect your career. You can receive the right advice and even have a representative by your side during talks, which may give you an edge when disputing disciplinary action or even dismissal.
Ultimately, remember that social media is not hidden. If you have a grievance or issue then pulling your manager aside for a chat is much better conflict resolution, as it leaves the issue in private rather than public. Doing so is the only way to ensure your job is secure and your reputation is not damaged by bad social media conduct.