Wednesday, December 13The Voice of London

Graduating soon? It’s time to “work- proof” your social media

We all know by now that it is tough after your graduate. But if you are posting pictures of you at a party having a drunken time, will it be even tougher?

In a Financial Times report, a Los Angeles tech company, Fama, is offering “social media screening for business” completed in an instant “by machine learning and natural language processing”. Does this mean it’s time for students to panic?

We spend a lot of time online, even on trains. Image by: Ainaa Mashrique.

“Reputation Management” is one service that is exclusive to this age of social media and the Internet, offered by companies such as Reputation Defender.

Tony McChrystal, an online reputation expert from the company, was kind enough to speak to us about the topic. His “graduate guide”– a PDF with tips on how to “work-proof” your social media for employability– included things such as keeping swearing online to a minimum.

The company deals with building a positive online presence for companies and individuals.

Tony said: “Bias is translated into Google. Negative information always finds them in the most prominent searches because scandalous information draws more attention– gets more coverage. For an individual or businesses it can be quite damaging.”

He helps people “readjust the balance of those search results” by highlighting or amplifying positive stories about his clients, so the search results about them are “not just being monopolised by negative information”.

VOL News went to a flat party to ask some students what they thought about social media checks. Video by: Ainaa Mashrique.

It is funny (and a little unnerving) to think that literally everything you post stays in an intangible space forever. The Internet is, quite literally, like a black hole. But do students care? Voice of London News asked a few students what they thought.

Alex, 22, is not too bothered with social media: “I don’t think it’s that great anyway.” But he is apparently “100% careful” about the stuff he puts on his because he believes students need to. When asked if he thinks social media checks are restricting, he feels that they are not, saying: “I don’t really mind it. I think it might be a good thing.”

Mandip, 23, says he would reserve “party pictures for Snapchat”, where the posts disappear after 24 hours. He said: “I don’t think it’s restricting, I think it’s perfectly fine. Apparently first thing employers do is to check social media so I keep it pretty clean.” Employability is an important factor to him when thinking about what to post and what not to post. He added: “I have Facebook and I am careful about what I post.”

With Snapchat, posts disappear after 24 hours. Image by: Ainaa Mashrique.

Amanda, 18, feels that it depends on the kind of social media platform. She feels that you should be careful with what you post on certain platforms like Facebook, where a lot of people can find you and keep in contact with you, especially when it comes to slightly “compromising” posts, for example posts about doing drugs or going drinking. But when it comes to the platforms with more privacy settings like Instagram and Twitter, which allows you to customise your privacy preferences, she said: “I guess it’s more free.”

She does not find social media checks too restricting, but she tells us of knowing people who would change their names or delete mass amounts of their posts just so prospective employers or colleges will not find them.

Tony from Reputation Defender says social media checks ensure that prospective employees are suitable for the company; for example, it makes sure the future employee is not racist. Speaking in an employer’s point of view, he said: “You’re going to go with the candidate who represents themselves better because they’re going to represent your business better.”

Be careful with what you say online. Image by: Ainaa Mashrique.

But the one thing young folk want to know the most: what about pictures of you partying? Will that affect anything? Is the fear legitimate?

Not necessarily. Apparently, you do not have to be that strict with your social media. He told us: “I think if you’re strong-willed enough (if you believe what you say or advocate online is right) and you’re happy to be judged in that way, I don’t think you should let social media checks affect you too much.” So basically, you just need to “walk your talk”.

Tony believes that it is completely fine to show that you have a life and it may actually be welcomed– at least by him as an employer– as it shows that you can “let loose and have fun”, a trait that is apparently completely human and healthy. What a surprise!

He thinks it is unfair to expect students just out of university to have zero photos of them getting drunk at a party. He said: “As an employer, if you’re making a decision based on that, then I don’t think that’s the right decision because you could be alienating your own team, or starving your own team of talent. Extravagant types who go out and enjoy themselves, they may have qualities that may drive a business forward.” Now, that’s a refreshing (and a reassuring) point of view.

However, he highlighted that “you need to be bold and confident enough” to be judged on the things that you post, saying: “If you put yourself online and show that ‘this is me, I sometimes swear, I sometimes talk about trivial subjects’ you have to prepared to be judged on that.” He added: “You can’t have one without the other.”

The one topic that he stressed on the most was to make sure you’re not being offensive and hateful on social media– you should be pleasant on social media, as you would in real life. He said: “I wouldn’t say anything online I wouldn’t say to anyone in real life– in an office, or in a pub, speaking to a friend, etc. I wouldn’t hide behind a keyboard or a screen.” According to him, if you are picking fights online, potential employers might take note of that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most important thing is to not take part in any form of cyber-bullying. Image by: Pixabay

It seems that balance is key, and showing employers how wholesome you are as a person by posting pictures of you with your family, at church, or volunteering will be good too… just to even out the three or four (or 10) pictures of you partying it up with your friends.

It is not all doom and gloom. Social media can be a compromising factor, but it can also be an opportunity, if you use it correctly. Tony believes in introducing social media training– to teach young people about the pitfalls and benefits of using the Internet– in schools. Not just that, but to also “show them where people have gone wrong, where it has affected their personal and professional lives, so they don’t make the same mistakes.”

What comes up when people search your name, or your “search results”, as Tony calls it, is your “digital” CV. According to him: “People are going to look at your search results, and would look through your achievements, not just through social media, but your blogs too.”

On the same breath, he told us that if you go viral for the wrong reasons– i.e. tweeting an offensive comment to a celebrity– it might show up when people search your name on Google, so it’s best to avoid that.

So how can you use the Internet to increase employability? He said: “Graduates need to start thinking about what they want do after they leave education, and then start talking about these subjects online and getting involved in the discussions.”

Now, let’s recap: think twice about posting anything– some things are better left in your camera roll– don’t be offensive, and last but not least, make sure you take part in enriching discussions on the web to show prospective employers your areas of interest.

 

Words: Ainaa Mashrique| Subbing:Rituja Rao

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