After years of training and preparation, it took less than 140 characters to dash Greek track athlete Voula Papachristou’s Olympic dreams.
The young triple-jump champion was booted from the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games roster after she posted a tasteless tweet about Africans and the West Nile virus, sparking an uproar on social media.
While only a select few get to be professional athletes in the Olympics, this situation speaks to an issue that is common among all of us: social media can have serious repercussions for your career – a lesson that Voula is now learning the hard way.
To be sure that you don’t have to endure the same lesson, Robert Half Division Director Chris Brady has some tips and advice for job seekers and young professionals using social media.
Remember your audience
“Your social profile when you’re in college or university can be very different than what it should be when you’re out in the workforce,” says Chris. When you’re posting on social media, it’s important to remember that you’re not on campus anymore. What you post, tweet and upload is available to a much wider network of people than just your immediate network of friends. The web is much larger than that. Current and prospective employers are in that mix.
Be aware of the impression that you make online, he says. Even though LinkedIn is the “Facebook of business,” companies can still lurk your other social networks to get a sense of who you are. Since social media has become a major part of the workplace and hiring, Chris recommends managing your online brand to ensure that when employers go searching for you, they will like what they find.
Amp up your security
If you’ve racked up years of unflattering party photos or awkward high school banter that you’d rather your current or future boss not see, the easiest solution is to adjust your privacy settings.
Each social media site has help features to explain how to share without sharing with the wrong people. Keeping your social networks private is a quick way to manage your online brand if you don’t have time to professionalize your accounts.
Pause before you post
When you have a great tweet or status update, it can be tempting to get it out to the cybersphere as quickly as possible. But stop a moment and think. This message is potentially going out to more than just your network of friends so you better make sure that it is what you want to say. Check your spelling, check your grammar and, above all, check your content.
Chris says, if you’re posting something that employers could find, ask yourself: “Would I stand up in a conference room and make that comment?” If the answer is no, such as in the case of Voula’s tweet, then don’t hit send.
Though you can delete posts off your feed or account, you can never fully erase them. “The information that you put out there once you hit that button is out there for good,” says Chris.
Manage your brand
Outside of maintaining a professional persona with the content that you’re putting out, it’s also important to keep tabs on what others are posting about you. You may not be posting photos from last night’s rager but if your friends are, then employers can still find them. Monitoring your online presence shouldn’t just be a priority when you’re on the job hunt, says Chris, it needs to be an ongoing activity. Keep track of what you’re saying online and what other people are saying about you to avoid any uncomfortable discussions with current and future employers.