Appropriate vs. inappropriate: social media professionalism

What to avoid when you’re employed and how to save face online.

Leslie Aguilar, Times Staff

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Internet background checks are becoming an increasingly common hiring procedure, and what you post may pose a risk to your professional life.

Recently, a brusque remark about ex-First Lady Michelle Obama made its rounds on Twitter and Facebook, ending with nonprofit director Pamela Ramsey Taylor’s temporary job suspension.

Evidently, the liberty to post whatever one wants can cause serious repercussions.

You have probably witnessed vicious arguments on Facebook or Twitter, and while some users simply scroll past, others may pitch in with their occasionally explicit responses.

Avoid going online if you feel irritated

Although your emotions may be temporary, anything you share online is permanent. You don’t want your inflammatory comment on Facebook to be brought up during an interview.

In Ramsey Taylor’s case, the responses generated by her post ranged from snide comments about her weight, to heated racial insults. Regardless of how much you might feel a person deserves it, calling someone a “white trash inbred” isn’t a great way to represent yourself online.


Be wary of what sites you regularly visit

Virtually anything that requires a personal email can be traced back to you, and sometimes can be used to track cyber whereabouts. Any information that is included on a resume can be used by your employer to run a background check, and that includes your email.

Maybe it’s time to consider cancelling your premium membership to that certain website.

It is preferable to create a separate email account specifically for job prospecting. Not just for the sake of preserving your dignity, but to practice making your social and professional life independent from each other.


Tone it down a few notches

While exercising your first amendment rights is encouraged, sharing controversial photos or videos can give potential employers a very one-sided perspective of you. Radical political views can be interpreted in many ways, and you don’t want to seem like a crazy nationalist to your future boss, so why risk it?

Being behind the camera and voicing any internalized hate, is another matter. Most potential employers don’t want to stumble on a 37 minute video of you rambling on about the faults of certain ethnic populations. In other words, avoid going on racist rants. In public and online, at least.

Using the ‘mom filter’ on Photos

The unpredictability of social media has the potential to ruin our public image in a matter of seconds. Out of the all the risks that accompany the freedom of social media, photos can ultimately be the most damaging.

One rule of thumb when it comes to posting pictures is simply asking yourself, “Would I show this to my mother?” If the answer to that is “No, my mom wouldn’t be particularly proud,” then consider posting something else.

If your mom doesn’t want to see that unflattering picture of you, neither do your employers.

Why this matters?

The importance of maintaining an appropriate Internet personality is oftentimes overlooked. Employers seek individuals who will represent their company in a refined, professional manner.

If, for example, a photo surfaced of you passed out on a dirtied floor during Cinco De Mayo with your frat brothers, then it could be slightly difficult to find employment at a white collar level. Even if you already occupy a job, being cautious with what you post can avoid any problems that may arise concerning your social media profiles.

Being part of a company means you are an embodiment of their values and ideas, and anything you say and do is a reflection of them as well. Employers know this. They waste no time in investigating what your media persona is like, and whether or not they consider you a potential asset to their company.

Being conscious of what you post can save you from a humiliating interview, no longer do you have to fear a read aloud of your tweets from two years ago.

So remember to think before you post, it can greatly affect your chances of hired.