Social media - protecting your reputation

Peter Brittonin Editorial

Social media has become as much part of our lives as trains, planes and automobiles. A huge percentage of the population have an account on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn etc. and all age groups seem to have embraced the various concepts to some degree.

The most common users are the 18-40 year-old age group; those most likely to be a moving feast on the employment front as they aim to improve their careers and reputation within the industry.

Perhaps surprisingly, the next most popular users are the 40-60 age group. So, when it comes to screening candidates for job positions, there's the rub, as the majority of course managers, head greenkeepers, head groundsmen and grounds managers will be in the 30-60 age range and active themselves on social media, including specialist industry groups.

Why does this matter? Well, it is estimated that the number of employers using social media to screen candidates has increased by over 500% in the past ten years. Furthermore, close to 70% of potential employers have rejected a candidate because of what they have viewed on social media.

So, surely, it is worth spending time ensuring your online persona isn't going to impact on your professional life?

Employers aren't just sifting through your posts for titbits; they're after specific information that could affect their decision to hire you. They'll be looking for such things as:

  • background information to ensure you match with the job being offered
  • an understanding of your personality and whether you will fit in with existing employees and the venue's overall culture
  • suggestions that you're a well-rounded person with a wide range of interests and pastimes
  • evidence of good communication skills. For example, are you a ranter or a thinker?
  • how you react with your colleagues on specialist industry groups - are you a ranter or a thinker?
  • your general view of the industry - are you a ranter or a thinker?

One misguided post that reads "great weekend, hanging today" or "members - bunch of muppets", or similar, may well consign your CV to the 'rejected' pile.

This does not mean you have to treat your social media accounts as an extension of your CV, but it does mean that you should consider what you post.

Don't share provocative, inappropriate, offensive or discriminatory content - an all too easy thing to be tempted to do currently in Brexit Britain! You should also refrain from criticising your previous employees or colleagues ... and try to ensure your grammar, spelling and punctuation is, at least, comprehensible.

It is very easy to get drawn into the flow of a thread without giving it a second thought, especially if the topic is an emotive one. Online swearing is a big turn off to many, so consider your wording carefully. In most cases, a point can be made without the need to dip into the expletives box.

Remember, it's all too easy to find someone online - every site has a fully functioning search facility, whilst Google (other search engines are available) will find you at the drop of a hat. If you are online, there is no hiding.

Consider how you have set up your account. Do your privacy settings allow for your friends and family to post anything they like about you? If they do, consider changing them so that you can monitor such things as tagged images and videos. If you spot anything you don't like, delete it! Remember, it is your reputation that is at stake.

If you can't find the source, or the person you've contacted refuses to take down the content, you can ask the administrators of the specific website to do it for you.

This may seem like a lot of unnecessary effort and you may even be tempted to remove your social media presence completely, but you could then be losing out on opportunities and valuable resources, such as industry groups, training videos, job offers and such like.

So, there's the conundrum. To social media or not to social media?; that is the question.

Just keep in mind that, whilst it can be useful, social media isn't the be all and end all when it comes to your career, but potential employers are looking. At the end of the day, a common sense approach to how you promote yourself online could be one of the best things you ever did.

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