How social media can ruin your career

Written by: Georgina Bloomfield
Published On: 24 Nov 2015

Social media is your enemy as much as it is your best friend. As your presence grows on social media, it’s easy to get complacent and to forget the consequences from one wrong comment or picture. And, if you’re searching for someone online, you can guarantee that you’ll find them on several different platforms (and chances are, you’re on at least two social media sites currently). If you do have several social media accounts, it is important to understand how easily you can be found. Here are the career-ruining crimes commonly committed on social media all over the world:


Privacy settings being wrong or out of date

First and foremost, people always trip themselves up on privacy settings. Social media sites are continually updating their privacy policies and settings, and unless you’re always on the game, your profile could be more exposed than you think. Who are you comfortable with seeing your posts? Friends, co-workers, or just your family? On Facebook for example, you can tailor your posts so only certain ‘lists’ (i.e. audiences) can see them. The only thing with this however, is that you need to make sure the settings are correct for each individual post you make, so always check before you post! You can also preview your Facebook profile from the perspective of a member of the public, or a certain person on your friends list. This can be really helpful – especially if you’re on the job hunt and you want to see what recruiters might come across when searching for you.

Letting old photos resurface

A lot of people use sites like Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook to store their images and memories over time. Like your posts, you can choose who sees what. For example, on Facebook you can change the settings on that hen party album that you might not want your co-workers to see! You can also have ‘secret’ boards on Pinterest to avoid any awkward moments in the office on Monday. People tend to forget that once you upload a picture to the internet, it becomes property of the internet. If said incriminating image gets into the wrong hands and shared on the right platform, it won’t take much to damage your career. A good tip is to purge your photos every couple of years, and take down any that you think are no longer appropriate.

On the other hand, the fun side of social media shouldn’t be ruined by your concerns about what your co-workers might think. It’s not a bad thing to simply hide albums/photos from certain people or ultimately to refuse to add colleagues to your network. A lot of people don’t like to mix business and pleasure online.

Getting the vibe totally wrong

Social media platforms each have their own individual vibe. As a general rule, here are the social vs. professional elements of each social media platform:

Facebook: 90 % social 10% professional

Twitter: 50% social 50% professional

LinkedIn: 90% professional 10% social

Snapchat: 80% social 20% professional (promotions from other companies targeted to you)

Pinterest: 70% social 30% professional

These are of course estimates of how these platforms are generally perceived, and as they grow, they might be likely to change. These percentages are roughly what you should try to stick to when you think about where you should post what. Some of these do overlap – for example, if you’re a builder and you’ve crafted something impressive, then you might want to show it off on Pinterest and Facebook to your friends, but also to potential recruiters and employers on LinkedIn.

Getting too opinionated

I have always maintained the view that Facebook isn’t the place to heavily debate politics or religion. It’s very easy to reply to someone in the heat of the moment and not realise just how many people can see your comment, especially if it’s on a public page. Like images, comments have permanency on social media. Even if you delete it, it’s possible for people to take screenshots of what you said. Try to keep the discussions regarding politics and religion private if on social media or to not have them at all. In the long run, it can cause you a lot of hassle.

Being far too obvious about being a job seeker

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, that’s great! However, you don’t want to make it too obvious on certain profiles. Everyone on LinkedIn is looking for job opportunities, so it’s acceptable to be updating your profile on a regular basis without it implying that you’re looking for somewhere else. However, if you’re changing your Facebook photo to that graduation picture and you’re asking friends (publicly) if they have anything going at their companies, co-workers could see this and potentially get the wrong idea. Before you know it, your manager’s asking why you want to jump ship.

Overall, social media is a very grey area when it comes to mixing your personal and professional life. Technically there aren’t any rules, but where common sense is the general rule, mistakes are easily made and messages on these platforms can be easily misinterpreted. If in doubt, don’t post it!

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