Can Facebook Sabotage Your Career?

Speaking of California, the April 2009 Fresno Paralegal Association Newsletter
has an excellent article by Vicki Voisin of the Paralegal Mentor entitled “Are You Sabotaging Your Career.” In the article Vicki warns of some of the pitfall of social networking websites:

You are, in essence, dropping clues right and left about yourself and you may be offering too much
information. Many companies (that includes law firms) now use social networking sites to screen prospective hires. They may also use them to check on the behavior of current employees. A simple entry of a name in the Google search box can reveal all kinds of information…some of it may be embarrassing.
Social Networking isn’t just about you. You really have little control over who sees your information. Your contacts have access to it. Their contacts have access. Those contacts have access. You can see how the web widens.

Vicki’s point cannot be overstated. Whenever I’m about to have significant professional dealings with someone new one of my first steps is to do an internet search for information about that individual. Interviewing a new candidate for a position in my office – a person who will have access to confidential information, be the primary contact with my clients and have access to client trust accounts – certainly qualifies as “significant professional dealings.” Consider the likelihood of hiring someone who’s Facebook profile picture show them well “under the influence” at a Jimmy Buffet concert. While a potential employer may understand and even approve of the events that led up to the picture, most employers would question the professionalism and discretion of a person who posts that picture as their first and best impression.

Vicki suggests

Your online presence is a virtual resume. Craft your profi le very carefully so you reveal only positive information. Don’t use a screen name that gives a poor impression. Don’t post pictures or videos you wouldn’t want your mother to see. Delete any photos your friends might post that show you drinking and partying. If any off -color comments are associated with your posts, delete them immediately. Choose your Facebook friends and followers on Twitter wisely. You don’t have to accept every request.

Does this mean you can never have fun or at least never share that fun with your friends? Not at all. However, keep in mind that you have a professional life and a personal life. Keep the two separate even on Facebook, mySpace and Twitter.

There is, of course, a tie-in between Vicki’s story and Chere Estrin’s story discussed in a previous post, “Who Is in Charge of Your Career?” Some of these same issues are also discussed in real-life networking contexts in “Martinis and Professionalism.

The bottom line is that Facebook cannot sabotage your career, but you can. You should be in charge of your career both on and off the internet.

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