Three ways your social media can impact your employability – and how to fix it

Could your social media use be impacting your employability? Read five tips to help make sure you don’t tweet yourself out of a job.

If you’re anything like us, you live your life through social media. From the perfectly curated Insta grid to your well-thought-out Twitter persona, social media is how we express ourselves.

A huge 95% of 16–24-year-olds have a social media presence, showing how big a part of our lives it is. It allows us to share our favourite memories and stay up to date with friends and family, but it could also impact our lives in negative ways.

You may have heard of the horror stories of people getting fired or having job offers withdrawn as a result of a social media post. Heriot-Watt University have, detailed three key examples and how you can keep your social media free of controversy.

The legalities

There have been a lot of high-profile examples of people losing their jobs or having job offers rescinded as a result of social media. But is it fair and legal?

A number of employment tribunals taking cases where employees have been fired over social media posts have taken the side of the employer. Making discriminatory posts, such as those featuring racist or homophobic language, can be categorised as a hate crime, which is punishable by law.

Other incidents that have been held up in court include employees who’ve posted abusive information about customers or confidential company information. According to AWH, social media misconduct can be treated in the same way as verbal misconduct in the workplace.

Here are three examples of social media use having a negative impact on someone’s career.

1) Old tweets haunt youth police and crime commissioner

Paris Brown achieved the coveted position of the UK’s first Youth Police and Crime Commissioner. At 17, Paris bagged the position that would see her work to improve the relationship between the police and young people. She received a lot of accolades for this achievement, but it all went wrong when old Twitter posts resurfaced.

In the posts, Paris tweeted about a range of topics, including getting drunk on nights out, taking drugs, and using discriminatory language. The tweets were plastered across headlines in national newspapers and were found by the Daily Mail.

Brown didn’t officially get fired, but in the wake of the scandal, resigned from her new role. This case highlights how old posts can seriously affect your employability, no matter how young and naïve you were back then.

2) TikTok rant about Tesco doesn’t go down well

Another case that hit the headlines came off the back of Jade Pinner’s TikTok rant about going to her job at Tesco after a night out and no sleep. It’s unsurprising that posting negatively about your employer on social media can get you into trouble at work – even a spur-of-the-moment negative post can get you in hot water.

Jade’s video went viral, with a lot of people sympathising with her frustrations at customers, and others taking issue with the content. People began to tag Tesco in her videos, bringing it to the attention of her employer.

Jade didn’t get fired as a result of her video because she’d already left Tesco, but this case highlights how quickly an innocuous post about work can spread online. Even if you think it’s hidden from your current or prospective employer, it could still reach them.

3) X-rated content and posting at work get you fired

A lot of people have posted about their own experiences of being fired for social media posts, or someone else’s, on the anonymous confessions app Whisper. One person posted a double reveal, stating that their co-worker had gotten fired for not only having an X-rated Twitter account but also for posting to it during working hours.

Five ways you can stop your social media from affecting your employability

Most of us know that posting discriminatory or abusive content is bad and can not only lead to us losing a job but also to legal consequences. But there are other elements to consider too. Here, we have some top tips on keeping your social media profile clean and employable.

1) Don’t post about controversial topics

It can be hard to know what qualifies as a controversial topic, but a good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t discuss this topic or your opinions with your manager, don’t post it on social media.

If you realize that you’ve been vocal about sensitive matters in the past, there’s a practical step you can take. Consider using tools that allow you to delete tweets in bulk to clean up your digital footprint efficiently.

2) Don’t share drunken content from wild nights out

Platforms like Instagram and Facebook have long been an amazing way to share our best memories, but steer clear of posting about how drunk you were or sharing photos of particularly wild parties.  

3) Control the content you’re tagged in

You might have a social feed that’s squeaky clean and respectable, but that could all be tarnished if someone tags you in a compromising post or photo. Use the tagging settings on your social profile to allow yourself to review all tagged content before it’s attached to your profile.

4) Stick to positive content and news

LinkedIn is a great example of the types of content you can post about that can improve your chances of employability. News on the sector or job role you’re working in, or aiming for, can show you’re a professional who’s committed to your career. On other platforms, feel free to share happy moments – so long as they’re clean.

5) Don’t post during working hours

While a lot of people take the opportunity of their dinner break to tweet or comment on friends’ Facebook posts, it can be a good idea to not post at all during your working day.

Your online persona can affect your career opportunities

Our online personas reflect who we are, and employers are looking at them before they make new hires. If you’re studying for a degree and you’re looking for a career at the end of it, it’s important to make sure your social media paints a positive picture of you.

With 70% of employers checking the social media profiles of candidates, it’s something future graduates need to be aware of.

Photo by Laura Chouette