Friday, October 23, 2020

Self sabotage – is social media hurting people’s careers?

A few months ago, a De Beers Botswana and Diamond Trading Company Botswana recruitment process was plunged into a controversy by a recruiting officer’s Facebook post. Fortunately, the controversy died down and no careers were destroyed. This was one of the few benign cases. Sometimes it can get nasty, end up in litigations and dead careers.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “The thing is, while we call social media “social”, there’s a very fine line between how it serves us inside and outside the workplace. Interviews don’t start with firm handshakes anymore. They start with Google and Facebook searches. Social media has been around for more than 10 years and professionals still post inappropriate and irrelevant information that compromises their chance of getting an interview.

The dawn of social media has meant that parts of our lives that were kept out of the workplace are now public knowledge. A couple of years ago, the process of finding a job used to be very direct. A candidate would apply for a job, if suitable they would be invited for an interview and if in the end, they fit the profile and requirements they were offered a position within the company. Fast forward to this day in age, the introduction of social media has added an extra layer of involvement to the job process. Social media is no longer just a platform for communicating with your friends or your family, people, organizations and companies all over can see a person’s activity on social media.

And the people you work for – or who are considering hiring you are looking. The recruitment process has increasingly shifted into the online realm. With many employers now turning to the likes of LinkedIn to seek out potential hires, check out recommendations or make new connections, employers are very well acquainted with the internet’s potential in recruitment.  Young social media users (18-34) often post a photo or status/comment that could affect their career prospects. But lots of them seem to be blissfully unaware of the damage they are potentially doing to their careers by being careless online. Many don’t realise that a Facebook picture of them drunk and practically naked is no longer private jokes between friends.

Dr Mosime explained that, “some people feel that innocent pictures at parties are acceptable and won’t offend potential employers but that isn’t true. The challenge is not knowing what the hiring manager may think of the content shared. Social media is a primary vehicle of communication today, and because much of that communication is public, it’s no surprise some employers are watching. This is an age in which companies and organizations are increasingly turning to social media as a means of delving deeper into an applicant’s academic, professional and personal life to help them decide who gets accepted in their companies and who doesn’t. That means that what we post online – and what others post about us – can be seen as a secondary ‘online resume.”

The X generation has been brought up with Facebook and Twitter as part and parcel of their lives. Ever since they hit their teenage years, they have been updating their profiles via social networks at least a few times every day. At that point those pictures of a drunken house party were seen as a sign of popularity or the provocative pose was seen as merely a show of their attractiveness. Things that used to be kept in private photo albums or sealed away as a memory are now easily available to employers. An issue with the difference in values also comes to light, a young applicant may think a photo of themselves smoking marijuana is their business – an employer will, deem it an undesirable quality. 

By using social media, a person builds their online image. One’s posts and pictures are what others use to perceive who they are as a person including a potential employer. The expectation in the digital age is that you can be who you are and say what you feel but that isn’t entirely true, in fact, many people have had their careers or job hiring chances hurt by what they emailed, tweeted or posted. The digital world is very fickle. Illegal drug references, sexual posts, profanity, and posts about guns and alcohol consumption are potential employers’ turn offs and can damage one’s credibility and employability.

In university, getting drunk is rewarded. But when you’re in a workplace, there are different consequences. Most of us believe that our personal interests, activities and lifestyle are none of our employer’s business, so long as they are kept separate from our working life. However, it is all too easy to form an immediate judgment about someone from a single comment or photo posted online. This blurring of a person’s personal and professional image is something which employers are increasingly doing.

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