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6 social media mistakes that will kill your career

Sharon Florentine | April 16, 2014
Just because you're not posting drunken selfies doesn't mean you've got this social networking thing down. There are a number of more subtle social media mistakes that could hurt your career. Here are six to avoid.

As an example, Dobey says, imagine you're in a restaurant having lunch with a professional colleague. You're wearing a nice suit, and chatting about professional matters. If a college buddy walks in and sees you, they're able to take in your demeanor and appearance and make an assumption that they should approach you in a professional, reserved manner, since it's obvious you're in a professional context. But online, via social media, it can be difficult to interpret these contextual clues, he says.

"That can lead to some major misunderstandings and social faux pas," says Dobey. "If you post content in a professional context, but your college buddy can't tell that, he may reply with comments or other media content that's completely inappropriate - and that's bad news for you," he says.

"You need to really understand who your audience is when you're delivering content online. When that audience is mixing personal and professional, you're going to introduce misunderstandings. The best way to avoid this is to keep them completely separated from each other," Dobey says.

Mistake 3: Beware of Zombie Content

One of the most important things to remember about online content in general and content posted to social media in particular is its permanence, says Brandon Metcalf, CEO and co-founder of recruiting softoware solution TalentRover. That photo from your college spring break? It's still out there, somewhere. And it may come back to haunt you, he says.

"You have to be aware of how permanent this medium is. Once content's out there, it's out there forever — it'll never die, like a zombie, and you should be aware that it'll probably rear its ugly head at the worst possible moment, like when you're trying to get a job," he says.

One of the first things recruiters do is Google candidates, and scour social media to get a sense of the candidate's personality and potential cultural fit with an organization, Metcalf says. Echoing's Duchesne, Metcalf says a good rule of thumb is never post anything on social media that you wouldn't want your mother to see.

Metcalf says the "incriminating photo" problem happens even to candidates who should know better. In one case, he says, he was recruiting for a major investment firm, and had located the perfect candidate — the right skills, experience, background and location — but what he saw on the candidate's Facebook page gave him pause.

"One thing I always do is scour Facebook for candidates' background and culture information," Metcalf says. "Luckily, I noticed that this candidate's Facebook profile picture included both him and a blow-up doll. It was likely to cost him consideration for this job. I got in touch with him and he quickly changed it, but it's another cautionary tale," he says.


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