Social Media Can be a Career Success Builder or Killer

On Sunday there was a small article in the New York Times by Jennifer Preston entitled “Vital Info on Job Seekers, or Intrusive?”  There’s some great career success advice that comes from it.  In part, the article said…

“Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit reports and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the previous lives of prospective employees.  Now some companies are requiring job candidates to pass a social media background check.

“A year old startup, Social Intelligence, scrapes the internet for everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years.  Then it assembles a dossier with examples of professional honors and charitable work, along with negative information that meets specific criteria:

Online evidence of racist remarks.

Reference to drugs.

Sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos.

Flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity.”

Privacy advocates have raised concerns over the Social Intelligence business model, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reminds employers that, “Things you can’t ask in an interview are the same things you can’t research.”  However, the Federal Trade Commission has determined that Social Intelligence is in full compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

So if you’re looking for a job – or even being considered for a promotion by your current company – you can be pretty sure that someone is researching you on line.  Even if they don’t use a service like Social Intelligence, employers are looking at how you present yourself on line.  You should too.  Tweet 67 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Demonstrate self-respect.  Be impeccable in your presentation of self – in person and on line.”

Your on line presentation of self is important.  My best career advice is to google yourself.  See what comes up.  If it’s something embarrassing, or something you wouldn’t want your employer to see, make sure you remove it.  This holds true for your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.  Be just as impeccable in your on line presentation of self as you are in your in person appearance.

Remember, almost everybody has a smart phone with picture taking capabilities these days.  I’ve been told that it’s not uncommon at college parties for people to snap less than flattering photos of their friends and yell, “blackmail pic!”  What starts out as great fun can tarnish your reputation when taken out of context by a potential employer.

Several years ago, a parent in Pennsylvania googled his child’s student teacher.  On her Facebook page, she posted a picture of herself at a Halloween party dressed as a pirate, holding a cup of what looked like beer.  She captioned it, “Drunken Pirate.”  The parent was outraged and demanded that the student teacher be removed from his child’s class and deprived of a teaching certificate because the photo showed that the woman in question was in violation of Pennsylvania’s moral code for teachers.

I thought this was a little extreme, but her university was going to deny her an education degree – something necessary to get her teaching license.  The woman in question sued and was granted her education degree, but her reputation was forever tarnished.

So be smart.  Don’t post drunken pictures, or tell tales about the wild party you attended over the weekend.  If you do drugs or regularly drink to excess, don’t mention it on line.  Avoid political and religious remarks.

I often see tweets of a political nature.  Some I agree with, some I disagree with.  Regardless, I don’t retweet the posts with which I agree, nor do I rebut the posts with which I disagree.  The same holds true for my religious beliefs.  Politics and religion are minefields.  Just as you wouldn’t want to discuss them in a job interview, tweeting about them or writing Facebook posts about them is not a good career success move.

I am finishing up a new Success Tweets book.  It is called Success Tweets for Creating Positive Personal Impact.  Lydia Ramsey of Manners That Sell is my coauthor.  It contains a section on Socail Media.  Here is a sneak peek at the tweets in that section…

  1. The common sense rules of courtesy and civility that apply to in-person relationships are more important on line.
  2. Social networks allow you to get known and help others.  Give value and you will build a strong reputation online.
  3. Social networking is reciprocal.  When you help people, they’ll be more likely to remember you and return the favor.
  4. Avoid being overly aggressive in social networking. If you are too persistent in pushing your agenda, you can damage your reputation.
  5. LinkedIn is the best social network for business professionals.  Get active on it.
  6. For online profiles, use your real information and pictures. Your cat may be adorable, but that isn’t the face you want to present to the world.
  7. Post nothing you wouldn’t want a would-be boss to see. Potential employers will google you and make judgments based on what they find.
  8. Preserve your online reputation.  Keep your promises when offering to facilitate a personal introduction or find a phone number.
  9. Use a different account or profile for your personal connections or websites. Remember, it is best not to mix business and pleasure.
  10. Offer real value. Ideas and links to ideas that people can use to help their career or their business.
  11. Create screen names that reflect how you want to present yourself. Clever is good; cute is inappropriate. Your name is often the best choice.
  12. Twitter is a great site to share information, meet new people and build your brand.  Tweet items that have benefit for others.
  13. Retweet items that you think will be beneficial to others.  You will gain more Twitter followers this way.
  14. Check out the people that befriend you or follow you. Others will judge you by the company you keep.  Unwanted “friends” can cause harm.
  15. Compose your posts, updates or tweets in a word processing document before you post them so you can check spelling and grammar.
  16. Remember there are no guarantees of privacy in social networks (even with settings).  Anything can be cut, pasted, and sent.
  17. Never put anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t want your boss, your coworkers or clients to see. It is not a secure place.
  18. Check your Klout score frequently.  Others do.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  In a world where most everything that everyone does is in the public arena due to social networking sites, it pays to make sure that you present a solid on line image.  Prospective employers will google you.  You might lose an opportunity if they don’t like what they see.  Services like Social Intelligence are making it easier and easier for employers to learn everything about you that shows up on line.  My best career success advice is to follow the career advice in Tweet 67 in Success Tweets.  “Demonstrate self-respect.  Be impeccable in your presentation of self – in person and on line.”  Self-respect is the key here.  If you respect yourself, you’ll present yourself as the professional you are, or aspire to be.  As I finish this post, all I can say is I’m glad that cell phone cameras and Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist when I was an undergraduate.

That’s my career advice on how to present yourself on line.  What do you think?  Please share your thoughts with us in a comment.  I’m really interested in what you all have to say about this issue.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, you can download a free copy of my latest career success book Success Tweets Explained.  It’s a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.


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