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How to Ruin Your Career with Social Networking

Roughly one quarter of hiring managers say they consult social networking sites when considering new applicants, and one-third of them have actually dismissed candidate because of what they found. Think social media has nothing to do with your job? Think again.

Everyone knows that when it comes to finding and keeping a job, maintaining a professional image is crucial. In fact, according to a CareerBuilder.com survey of hiring managers, dressing inappropriately for an interview, badmouthing former employers, and appearing disinterested were the top three sins committed by applicants.

Yet many people repeatedly commit these sins online without thinking twice. Whether posting less-than-flattering photos of themselves on Facebook, twittering about how much they hate their bosses, or simply revealing to the world that they’re spending their day goofing around online rather than working, more and more people are getting the boot as a result of social networking activity.

In this tricky economic climate, when employers can afford to be more selective, why not take the same kind of care with your online presence?

Who’s Looking?
Employers big and small, that’s who. In a recent study of more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals, 22 percent said they use social networking sites to research job candidates, and another 9 percent plan to start. Of those who do this, 34 percent have actually found content on these sites that caused them to rule out those candidates. The content they found most disturbing? Information about drinking or drug use, provocative or inappropriate photos or information, and poor communication skills were the top three offenders.

As companies begin utilizing social media to maximize their marketing efforts and connect with customers, they’re also checking out people they know, including their own employees. The latest research says that the average Facebook network consists of 120 “friends”–with so many people privvy to the details of your life, those details are likely to make their way to your boss, coworkers, or current and potential customers. Is there anything on your profile that you wouldn’t want your boss, your coworkers, or anyone you plan to do business with to see?

Social Networking the Right Way
Of course, social media can be a boon to your career. It enables employers to get a more well-rounded picture of you as a professional. It puts you in contact with thousands of potential customers, allowing you to convey your message in a targeted, more effective way. It keeps you on the top of the minds of business connections you’ve established. And it provides a means by which you can become a thought leader in your field–but only if it’s done right.

Some tips to help keep your social networking activities from haunting you:

��� If you can’t say something nice, say nothing. Never, ever badmouth an employer (current or previous), a customer, or a coworker
��� Mum’s the word about interviews, raises, or promotions. It only makes you appear shallow and greedy
��� Focus your efforts on developing a good, professional LinkedIn profile. The majority of hiring managers surveyed prefer to use LinkedIn over Twitter or Facebook when it comes to recruitment and reference checks
��� Take care with any writing you do online. Poor communication skills may turn off current or future employers
��� Keep your radical opinions and derogatory comments to yourself
��� Make sure that any photos you post portray you in the best possible light. And since you can never control what others might do with their photos, it’s probably best to watch your behavior in public–at least when there’s a camera around

Basically, either learn to exercise some caution and show a little restraint, or up your privacy settings to keep your personal profile hidden from your professional contacts. You never know who’s looking–or when. Don’t let social networking sink your career. It could just end up helping you reach your professional goals.

Publish date: August 10, 2009