AKA “How to Ruin my Career in One Easy Step”

It is obvious that we should closely monitor our internet footprint because organizations will continue to leverage social media in their decision-making.

A recent high-profile example is Harvard University’s decision to rescind the admission offers of 10 incoming students who had formed a private Facebook chat group, an offshoot of the official Facebook group for the Class of 2021, for the purpose of sharing memes with one another. The group called themselves “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens” and shared offensive material that made light of “sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children”, according to an article in The Harvard Crimson, the university’s daily student newspaper.  When Harvard admission officials were made aware of these posts, the students’ acceptance offers were immediately revoked – frankly, as they should be.

Although this example reads as a classic tale of reckless teenage judgment, working adults continue to face adverse repercussions from their social media content. According to a 2016 national survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 49% of hiring managers who screen candidates via social networks have found information that have caused them not to hire a candidate. The report also emphasizes that potential new hires aren’t the only ones affected by social media investigations – 41% of employers stated that they used social networking sites to research current employees and 26% of employers have found content that has caused them to “reprimand or fire” an employee.

In today’s competitive job market, an ill-advised tweet or tactless Instagram or Facebook post could be a differentiator between otherwise qualified candidates – and employers are keen to use this information to do what’s best for their companies. Strict privacy settings on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can help alleviate these concerns as an employee or potential new hire, but Artificial Intelligence and data scraping tools seem to indicate that roughly 90% of individuals do not completely restrict their social media data.

I recently attended a presentation that highlighted a situation in which an Artificial Intelligence company was challenged to locate and identify a person based on a single tweet. He was a criminal and it had taken the FBI over 6 months to track this person down. How long did it take the Artificial Intelligence engine to find this person from social media and identify who they were and where they were?

Try 2.5 hours!

The bottom line is that, whether you like it or not, companies use your social media information aggressively and will continue to do so. Your free speech is legally protected within certain boundaries. But also be aware that your views can easily be known to your employer and your employer may not resonate with your political and religious views, much less any hate speech. You may not tangibly know that your career has been limited by your social media activity, but beware! In addition, most company policy manuals reiterate that anything on your company computer or through company servers are fair game for investigation.

A simple and elegant way to ensure that your online information won’t be used against you in your professional life is to think about each and every digital trace from the potential perspectives of others:

Could your tweet/status/post be perceived as offensive, disagreeable, or harmful to anyone?

If anything other than an absolute “NO”, think twice.

Social media is a record that cannot be erased — the gift that keeps on giving!

Selah,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Frank

___________

Sources:

http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?ed=12%2F31%2F2016&id=pr945&sd=4%2F28%2F2016
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/harvard-revokes-admission-several-students-posting-offensive-memes-n768361

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