Five Social Media Pitfalls for Millennials in the Workplace

Privacy

Mary Kate Hallahan (@paliosaratoga)

Even though the Millennial Generation was practically born sending instant messages, commenting on blog posts, and connecting with strangers electronically, social media is still unchartered territory for many people especially in the workplace.

Theres no denying the benefits of social media instantaneous access to a wealth of information; availability of thought leaders, industry expertise and the ability to foster meaning relationships from the comfort of your couch or nearest Starbucks. But, without a cautionary approach, Millennials can find themselves falling prey to the pitfalls of social media.

What should Millennials (and all of us, really) keep in mind?

Your employer (and future employers) will Google you. Corporate recruiters are a savvy lot and theyre going to look at your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page and anything that comes up on a Google search. Whether it is something you said yesterday or five years ago, that information will be part of how youre perceived. Make sure you lock down your profiles so theyre private. And for goodness sake, use proper spelling and grammar.

You will be judged by the company you keep. OK, it was funny when your friend Leslie hung a moon on the Garden State Parkway and even funnier when the frat boys following in a convertible caught it on camera. However, by posting it on your wall, a future employer might get the impression that youve got a wild streak. My grandmother always said, “Birds of a feather flock together. That sentiment is true in social media. If you want to be taken seriously, post professional photos for your public persona.

Your friends will tag you without permission. Keep in mind that what you do in the offline world can end up in the online world. Its important to think about your entire image not just what youre posting. Friends and colleagues may tag you in photos, post snippets of e-mail conversations or reference you in a blog post. Monitor your social interactions and request tags or references be removed or prepare a response should employers ask about questionable activities.

Nothing is really private or off the record. Dont put anything in writing ever if you arent willing to shout it from a mountaintop or say it in front of your mother. Your employer is likely monitoring your email – remember that it is their property, not yours. That means no personal mail, bashing your employer or violating other workplace rules regarding electronic interactions. If your employee handbook says you cant talk about your company or your job online, dont do it its not worth the risk.

Talking about your employer on Twitter can get you in trouble. Posting that youre bored, that the “store is dead or that a cube-mate is irritating you with her gum snapping can reflect negatively on you and your employer. Youre giving the perception that youre a complainer at best or low performing at worst.

Forgetting that youre now a broadcaster. During the Japan Tsunami, Gilbert Gottfried sent out a series of jokes on Twitter. While they might have been funny to an intimate group of his friends or fans, a majority of people took offense to the crassness and he lost his job as a result. When sending an email or instant message, consider the audience before posting.

Being mindful of your online and offline actions is critical in using social media effectively. However, not having a social media presence can also be damaging. In this highly competitive job market, employers want to know more about the people they are considering hiring. Millennials should create blogs and participate in social networks that add value to their job search or career and give employers insight into their personalities and capabilities.

Just remember, some details are better left private.

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