Social media mistakes might block future job prospects

Junior marketing major Justin Jackson checks social media both on his laptop and cell phone. Social media has changed what is shared, now online identities are a factor in job searches.

By Madalyn Gotschall, NewsNetNetbraska

Dawn Braithwaite sees it when she gets applications for grad school. On the applications are the usual stuff, but there’s also signs that students weren’t thinking when they signed up for an email account or a social network.

“I’ve heard of people applying for jobs or graduate programs with obscene, not serious email addresses,” said Braithwaite, Willa Cather Professor and Chairwoman of the Communication Studies Department. “It doesn’t even need to be obscene, it all says something about you.”

Social media has officially become a thing, not just a trend, and this thing is so big it has one billion friends, 400 million birds, and 200 million connections. Social media has changed communication, to a level that no one truly understands, Braithwaite said.

It’s also changed how people get hired.

A 2012 CareerBuilder study said two in every five companies use social media to learn more about job applicants.

So what should students do?

Jordan Bates, senior English major and Media Communications intern for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Career Services, said lockdown is not the best approach.

“The goal should not be to lock everything up,” Bates said. “You want to give an employer an impression, but you should be very conservative about what you show them.”

As for what should not be posted, Bates said it mainly should be common sense: good grammar, proper spelling, no drugs or alcohol, and no bashing past employers.

Social media has even impacted the Nebraska Legislature as State Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill introduced a bill that would bar any employers ability to ask for perspective employee’s or current employees social networking passwords.

Larson said he is pushing the bill because he believes there is a line that needs to be drawn between home life and work life and laws need to be cognizant of that right to privacy. But Larson’s bill is only about passwords. He said employers have every right to investigate what’s out there.

“Whatever is public is fair game,” Larson said.

Bates urges students, and job seekers in general, to recognize their online identity as the personal brand. Social networking can be used positively to network, share experiences, and show some personality, but should not be something that becomes harmful to job searches, he said.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Career Services offers a service to students to give them a chance to meet with a counselor and walk through their social networking profiles. This gives counselors a chance to go over privacy settings with students, and also point out aspects of their profiles might be good to highlight, or would be considered warning flags for employers.

To schedule a 20-minute appointment students can call the Career Services office, or schedule one through MyPlan.

Braithwaite, Larson, and Bates all agree students should keep a few ideas in mind as they begin their career search.

“Be careful, because people do look and people do care,” Larson said.

“Don’t assume anything is truly private. Don’t assume anything truly goes away,” Braithwaite said.

“It’s up to you to be savvy about developing and refining your online identity,” Bates said.

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