Twitter launched during the summer of 2006, and in 2008 I was told by the tech-savvy ones in my life to sign up and that it was going to be the next big thing. So I did. The thought of having 140 characters to randomly muse over life seemed interesting enough. Other than facebook, this was the only other social media outlet I was using and of course my few followers were those in the tech world and not at all connected to my work life.
During a time when I was working 60+ hour work weeks in my first job, my musings naturally turned to complaints… the “I can’t believe its Monday already, don’t make me go” type of whining. And then one day I got a tweet from one of my followers warning me that I might accidentally “dooce” myself by writing those types of things. The term came from a woman who wrote a blog (dooce.com) and got promptly fired from her job because the content of her blog crossed over with work related topics. It’s actually embarrassing that this didn’t even occur to me before he said so. My twitter feed was private, so only people I approved could follow… but still, it is a pretty good rule of thumb to assume anything you put on the internet could be traced back to you forever. Unless you are absolutely fluent in privacy settings (and they can be complicated) it is really good to lead your “digital life” with that assumption.
4 years later, there are countless ways people are “sharing” things with not just their followers, but the world. Twitter feeds default as “public” and surprisingly, people usually leave them that way. Have you tried to google yourself lately? It’s a really interesting exercise (especially if you have a unique name) and I guarantee you will see things come up about you that you didn’t expect. They might not be bad, but you’ll be surprised they are there. When searching for someone’s name, twitter is usually one of the first results that come up and again, because may people don’t protect their feed, their musings are now available to be read by… whoever.
I wouldn’t say that every employer googles before they hire. But it’s not uncommon. And because Twitter encourages “casual” communication and thoughts, it’s likely that your feed isn’t just limited to you curating impressive articles you’ve read and commenting on them. If it does, good for you. If not, I suggest making your feed private (by selecting settings and then checking off the box “protect my tweets”.
Private or not, there are a few things you really shouldn’t put out there on twitter, period. It’s a small world, and you never know how one of your followers may come into play in your job search. Here are a few basic tips to make sure your tweets don’t crush your job search (or career!).
- follow people you admire or are curious about
- follow companies you admire (they may even post jobs using twitter)
- stay up to date on current news and articles
- re-tweet things that you find interesting
- share articles with followers
- interact with the community
- learn how to use it (I know there’s not much too this, but being fluent in all things social media can end up helping you in your job search)
- share things that are somewhat personal (but not too personal – your twitter followers probably consist of a few friends and many strangers – so consider what you’d want them to know about you to begin with)
- curse and rant (do you really think even your closest friends want to listen to this anyway?)
- discuss your job or internship (or past jobs/internships) – sometimes even positive info may be considered confidential by your company
- come across as completely inarticulate (writing LMAO over and over again doesn’t really make you sound smart)
- let the world know how much you drank last night (and definitely no references to illegal drugs)
- post pictures of yourself doing any of the above
- post a million times a day – no one likes a flooded twitter feed (and it looks like you don’t have anything better to do)
- always go right to negative-town – we all like a good twitter complaint but non-stop negativity is not a flattering look
I know this is making me sound old… and boring… but honestly, i’ve seen people come across my facebook and twitter feed (people who I consider “friends” in the sense of social media) who are totally inappropriate. For someone I don’t know that well, these forums may be my only interactions/impressions of them… and if they come to ask me to recommend them for a job, I might not. Just being honest.
Your online presence is a perception you are putting out there – sometimes way out there (depending on your privacy settings). And it may be the only impression someone has of you. So take a step back and consider what you are coming across like… and think, “would I hire me?”