Online Social Networking Mistakes That Can Break Your Career

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2009-04-2723

When online social networking and your career don’t mix.

Leverage The Internet To Get A Job

We’ve heard about how great social networking can be to our job or career. For instance, by connecting with past colleagues and friends over the Internet, I’ve increased my chances for getting job leads which eventually led to actual job offers. I’ve been using as one great resource for connecting with others professionally. Facebook can potentially do the same job if you take a professional stance with your profile. Then there are many others who have immersed themselves in a creative job hunt by setting up web sites that reflect and market their accomplishments.

So yes, the Internet is a fabulous resource that you can leverage to land a new job. But there’s a flip side to this — especially when you end up sharing too much of yourself online. Here’s an interesting article about how the online world can be hazardous to your career, plus more thoughts on this below (courtesy of our guest poster, Jacques Sprenger):

Can Online Social Networking Break Your Career?

It used to be, before the birth of the Internet, that applying for a good job only required a good, short, crisp, resume and a terse, professional, cover letter. In the past, your resume writing and job interviewing skills plus a quick background check would be enough to get you hired. Well things have changed for the job seekers of today.

online social networking

Nowadays, it’s a whole different ball game because of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other such wonderful social networks. If you don’t believe this assertion, try to Google yourself. That’s what employers do, according to a survey: “Employers are checking job applicants’ profiles on sites like Facebook, Brightfuse and LinkedIn.”

What are employers looking for? Incriminating information and material that job candidates probably shouldn’t be posting in his/her profile — stuff that betrays the image of the professional who fits the mold of the ideal employee. Such as Marilyn (not her real name, of course) who was filmed by a “friend” when she was lying on the sidewalk, completely drunk and minus her clothes. The “kind friend” promptly posted her visage on Facebook, complete with first and last name of the victim.

Or how about this survey that claims that “35 percent of job recruiters have dropped a job candidate because of information uncovered online”? These days, it’s not that hard to make someone look bad: if you ever become the target of someone who is tech savvy, say because of envy or rage, then watch out! It wouldn’t be too hard for the conniving perpetrator to post numerous profiles of you as someone with a past (criminal), a boozer, or any other filth they may think of. Guess what the prospective employer will think after Googling you?

Stuff To Watch Out For Online

Here’s a list of things you may want to beware of, when you set out to cultivate your online presence:

1. Watch what you say in a social network.
The troublemakers of this world have found a new way to reduce everybody else to their own mediocre level. You can sink yourself, however, by not being careful. As qouted from “for some reason, many people have the idea that if they use a social network or other popular website they can say whatever they want.” Even a silly statement uttered as a joke can backfire on you if a potential boss fails to see the humor. Extreme case in point: a couple of miscreants thought it was funny to post their malicious antics on the web. Nothing funny about landing in jail!

Domino's pizza guy prankster

2. Avoid writing about your company.
You may want to steer away from discussing your work or job on the Internet (except, maybe, if you do it anonymously in a forum like, where you can rate your job, company and salary). Complaining about your company (past or current) may have ill consequences. From, here are top reasons given by employers for not hiring someone based on an Internet search:

  • Lying about job qualifications (31%)
  • Poor communication skills (25%)
  • Links to criminal behavior (24%)
  • Trash-talking previous employers (19%)
  • Posting inappropriate photographs online (11%)
  • Using unprofessional screen names (8%)

3. Avoid questionable associations.
In these trying times, when finding a job is so difficult, a small mistake in your past may make all the difference. Imagine using a screen name like nakedmonkey, or partygirl, or killingmachine. Speaking as someone who worked in Human Resources in the past, I would strongly hesitate hiring someone with questionable associations, especially during an employer’s market.

4. Be careful not to mix your personal life and professional concerns.
Just like you wouldn’t be overtly friendly towards your boss or coworkers while at work, you’ll want to try to keep your personal life separate from your business related connections. You want to be judged by your abilities and not by people’s personal impressions of you. On this note, Google Plus (Google+) provides us with features that afford us this form of separation.

How To Defend Your Reputation

Okay, so you have some blots on the web that may affect your chances; so what is one to do? I heard of at least one innovative company that vows to “defend your good name on the Internet”. Companies like ReputationDefender will, for a fee of course, take care of the problem and keep monitoring your unwanted presence on the Internet until you cancel the membership. But you don’t have to go this far when you can simply take reasonable steps to keep your name clean online. It would be so much cheaper not to be caught in your underwear with a bottle of beer in each hand when a “friend” is taking pictures.

Copyright © 2009 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Dana April 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Good piece. I want to say that I was quite skeptical on the potential of social media, but was really surprised by its positive effect on my work. As to the career and job hunting part, it is possible to make career connections from Twitter and so on, I actually got a job off of it.

Mikael @ RetireRichRoadmap April 27, 2009 at 1:37 pm

A very important post and I think that more and more people are seeing the negative sides of being too open about who they are and what they do in the social networks. Just as you should be careful what you say when you’re around people you don’t know the same applies on the Internet. The difference is that millions of people are able to see all your mistakes so it is actually no different from making a complete fool of your self on national TV. I can actually be worse!

the weakonomist April 27, 2009 at 1:43 pm

All those people that tag pictures of themselves drunk, stoned, and just being outragous are asking for it. Eventually it will catch up with them. Can you imagine what pictures will surface in 20 years when generation Y (that’s me) starts running for public office? Oh man we’re going to see some crazy stuff.

Henry April 27, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I don’t know: nakedmonkey sounds intriguing.

Beth April 27, 2009 at 5:44 pm

I think there’s a big difference between employers looking in Facebook versus looking in LinkedIn or Brightfuse (Careerbuilder’s version of LinkedIn). The professional sites are totally different, the Careerbuilder doesn’t distinguish between the two in the survey.

Lesson learned: keep your Facebook private, but use the professional ones to show off a bit 🙂

Diasdiem April 27, 2009 at 6:40 pm

What would happen if on your Facebook profile or whatever you posted a bunch of b.s. credentials and phony achievements and qualifications, an employer sees them, and hires you, and then later finds out they’re not true? Would that be grounds for termination? I mean, you didn’t lie during an interview, or on the resume that you presented them. They drew a false conclusion based on information outside the traditional sources.

Shadox April 27, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Excellent post. On the whole, social networks are an excellent thing for one’s career development, but you definitely have to watch what kind of information you release into the wild. Cause once it’s out, it’s out for good.

Silicon Valley Blogger April 27, 2009 at 11:42 pm

I believe this is why some bloggers wish to remain anonymous 😉 . You never know what can bite you in the end. If you run your business on the web, but one day choose to return to a job in the “real world”, all the stuff you’ve done online will reflect on you. It’ll be up to your potential employer to interpret “what it all means”. I suppose this is one reason why I choose to stay unknown, although I figure, just as long as I don’t post anything that will raise eyebrows, I should be good…. 😉

Miss M April 28, 2009 at 6:03 am

I’ve heard plenty of stories of people not getting hired due solely to their myspace or facebook page. I belong to a forum with several HR managers, they’ve told stories of otherwise stellar candidates with totally inappropriate pictures online who didn’t get hired. Guess I’m glad I never caught on with the myspace craze. I have posted a little about my work, but nothing disparaging to my employer. If they ever found out about my blog I have no fear of them reading it. Best to be safe, besides they don’t do anything that lamentable. I’ll have to check out linkedin, I’m not sure it’s used much in my field. Most of our managers are not that tech savvy.

Todd @ The Personal Finance Playbook April 28, 2009 at 7:36 am

I agree that this is the reason some bloggers remain anonymous. You may not want every potential employer to have easy access to your views on controversial political issues, if that is indeed what you write about – or whatever else might make you controversial. Nice post.

MoneyEnergy April 28, 2009 at 10:57 am

Yes, this is one of the key challenges in our Web 2.0 world, unfortunately. I’m afraid that the younger members of “Generation Y” don’t know what’s in store for them. Just keep in mind that the same social rules apply on the web as off, and be careful who you link to and what you say:)

Certify April 28, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I usually use LinkedIn and actually asked for online acquaintances for their profile on this. However, some social networking sites like it are inappropriately used by some and usually ruins once reputation. It is because some are treating it as a joke which I think a blunder if you’re serious with your online presence.

Beth April 28, 2009 at 7:29 pm

A friend of mine was hiring and one of the candidates provided a link to an online writing project she was involved with — which in turn linked to her LiveJournal account.

Long story short: her potential future colleagues could read her online diary — including her comments about other companies and managers she was interviewing with! SVB is right — you really have to watch what you’re doing online, and it isn’t just Facebook you have to worry about.

liz April 28, 2009 at 8:05 pm

You can never go wrong staying private. Remember, what happens in Vegas, stays online. There’s a great article with a list of 10 things you can do to protect your privacy. Unfortunately, #10 is a bit hard for us to follow: “Stay Offline”. 🙂

Kristy @ Master Your Card April 29, 2009 at 10:45 am

I just read a news article recently about a woman who was fired because she called out sick, but was “seen” surfing Facebook later that day. She, of course, called out because she wasn’t able to sit in front of a computer all day. It’s interesting to me how people think these kinds of things won’t be tracked. Watch what you do in a social setting, watch what you view at work, watch what you say in emails, stay away from the phone and computer when you’re drunk, I mean, these aren’t exactly new. These should be things people are fully aware of.

I google myself regularly to ensure I don’t have anything I would be embarrassed by online. I do blog about situations at my job, but I never write anything I wouldn’t be willing to share with the HR department. I never reveal where it is I work, only the industry. And I never reveal identifying information for anyone. So. I’m pretty careful about what I have posted. I’m also one of those that shies away from cameras as best I can. But, even my best friend’s bachelorette party photos are tame because that’s just how I am. I think about how things could affect me long term.

Bargain babe April 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Social networking gives us as many chances to promote ourselves as it does to make a mis-step. Twitter in particular is dangerous because your Tweets “disappear” so quickly because newer tweets bump them down. I use Twitter almost entirely for business and a guy I know named Mark Briggs has convinced me cultivating followers is just as important as traffic to my blog, Mark even said he would pay for Twitter:

Goran Web Design May 3, 2009 at 7:08 am

Lets face it, keeping your facebook profile free of “stupidity” could go a long way towards establishing you as a person of integrity, and with sober habits. It is downright stupid to admit to any misdemeanours and even sillier to post photos of misbehaviour.

Kia May 4, 2009 at 2:50 am

I have a friend who has just recently lost a job because of his active “social life” and posting pics from his partying at the FB.

Tag44 May 18, 2009 at 6:26 am

Thanks for the post, it really helps a lot to make your career bright along with the social life.

Jon Doe June 28, 2009 at 8:06 pm

So you can be held accountable for having a drink and a stripper at your bachelorette party. Seriously!!!!

Lisa October 9, 2009 at 9:24 am

i like the social networking site for photo and video storage because its designed in flash, your profile is not searchable by google, so only the friends that you choose can see those photos and videos. If you don’t care…you can let everyone see them.

but personally, i wouldnt like my HR department to do a background check on me and find my profile, with my photos from that crazy bar in lima, peru….a tad embarrassing,,,,if i say so myself

Witly March 16, 2010 at 4:29 am

I like the social networking site as they have a very prompt support team to solve any queries or issues pertaining to your profile.

Mabel June 20, 2011 at 4:35 am

I think this is bull. Yes, of course you shouldn’t link to embarrassing/reputation-damaging/alarming photos of yourself online, or rant about your company. But employers need to keep their noses out of your private affairs. I don’t talk about my work on Facebook or blog about it. When I’m not working, I don’t even think about it.

The woman who got fired for checking her Facebook page when she was home sick might have had a laptop in bed with her and been lying down when she did that, something she couldn’t do at work. If your employee calls in sick, and she isn’t habitually skipping out, give her the benefit of the doubt. Spying on people is just plain wrong. What you do outside work is your own business.

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