In many ways, social media has been a job seekers best friend. We’ve all heard of the many  stories of people using social media to find a job, get a promotion or even get headhunted. But there’s an ugly side to social media. An ugly side in the the form of unfortunate Facebook posts and tweets that have gotten people fired from their jobs.

In one case, it got someone fired from a job she hadn’t even started yet.

I have yet to hear someone tell me they hate social media; most love it. But like so many things in life, marrying social media and your career can be tricky.  If you make one wrong move, it can cost you your job.

Getting caught with their social media pants down is the result of one thing…

Not truly grasped just how public social media is. Unless you have a private account, your tweets can be read by everyone and their grandma. When you post drunk pictures of yourself on your public Facebook profile, anyone who googles you can see it.

In fact, as a Recruiter, the very first thing I do is google a promising candidate’s name. Most times I don’t see much but their LinkedIn profile, a locked Facebook account and maybe Twitter. But sometimes I do get those extreme, and I mean extreme, drunk pictures or people professing their drug use (no joke). At that point I know two things:

  • This candidate is going to come into work on Mondays with a hangover… or may not come in on Mondays at all.
  • They weren’t smart enough to keep this part of their lives private. What else will they do on the job?

Neither is a good sign, so before this candidate embarasses me in front of my client, I move on to the next resume.

You’ve likely heard a lot about how to use social media to get ahead in your career… here’s what NOT to do with social media and your career:

1. Don’t advertise your job search if you’re currently working

If you want to keep your job search hush-hush, the very last thing you should do is announce it on social media. You can still use social media to help your job search. For example, you can connect with potential hiring managers on LinkedIn and ensuring that your LinkedIn profile (along with all other social media) is in tip-top shape, but don’t have “looking for a new job” plastered all over your the place.  Chances are your boss or co-workers will see your update.

2. Don’t use Facebook or Twitter during work hours

If you have a public profile and have been tweeting throughout the day, your boss can easily look you up and see what you’ve been up to during work hours. Imagine you call in sick claiming that you’re so sick you could barely get out of bed and then have pictures of your day at the spa plastered all over your Facebook page? As luck would have it, your boss would likely be the person to see these lovely pictures.

Of course if your job is related to social media in some way, this may not necessarily apply. But even then, it’s best to keep your personal tweets and Facebook updates personal. If you must engage from 9 – 5, keep your personal social media engagement to lunch hour.

3. Make your profile(s) private

It shocks me how many people have public profiles! Sometimes those public profiles are perfectly harmless, but some people have pictures that are absolute career suicide … remember my example above? You don’t have to make both your Twitter and Facebook profiles private. You can choose what suits you best. Most people keep their Twitter profile public and their Facebook private.

And don’t forget about Instagram, it can get you in trouble too.

4. Don’t air your company’s dirty laundry

Whether there are pending lawsuits, harassment complaints or impending layoffs every company has some type of drama. There is no need to share this with your friends, and when you do it over something as public as social media, it will come back to haunt you.

If you’re tweeting or managing Facebook pages on behalf of your company, make sure you understand their privacy policies. Know what you can share and shouldn’t share. What may seem perfectly fine may actually be harmful to the company. Think your tweets and updates through before hitting that ‘enter’ button.

5. Under no circumstances is complaining about your job okay

Most people don’t like their jobs, they don’t like their bosses and they don’t like their co-workers, but broadcasting how much you hate your job on social media is one of the worst things you can do. You never know who’s watching. Yet people do it every day… all day long.

It could be your coworkers or it could be your boss. A boss who will remember what you wrote (whether or not they make it obvious to you) come employee review time. A boss who may remember how you made fun of her outfit on your Facebook page when she has to make the difficult decision on who she has to lay off.

I love social media and sometimes find myself wanting to tweet everything that happens to me throughout the day. But there is such as a thing as over-sharing and over-sharing is NEVER good for your career.

How do you use social media for your career?

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