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How To: Protect your Online Reputation

How To: Protect your Online Reputation


We’ve heard the warnings time and time again  what we post on our social media accounts can negatively impact our job hunt. But are the warnings true?

According to a June 2014 survey from CareerBuilder, 51% of employers who research candidates on social media will not hire a potential candidate because of content the employer found online.

To learn more about what exactly employers are looking for online we consulted Chase Fitzgerald, a Senior Account Director at Max Borges Agency (MBA), a top technology communications firm.

With over four years of experience at MBA, Fitzgerald was not only responsible for creating the agency's social media department--which has since developed digital marketing capabilities--but also for serving as one of the three team members to open the agency's second office in San Francisco. Chase exclusively chats with College Living about inappropriate pictures, how much employers look into our past Tweets and finding your personal brand.

What exactly counts as an inappropriate picture?

If you are going to be working for a company, then they should accept you for who you are. If you are doing things that are inappropriate enough, then there are probably other things that are getting in the way of you getting a job other than your pictures on Facebook. It's also really important to surround yourself with people that know and appreciate you. And if you're with a company that shuns your Facebook profile and you're the kind of person that actively posts on it, then you should be able to keep doing so. I would encourage someone who is afraid of getting a certain job because of their pictures on Facebook to probably get a job elsewhere. If you're applying for a job, then you're going to be spending all day with those people and if those people suck during an interview, they're probably going to suck during work too. 

How can social media affect your future job opportunities?

I would never discourage anyone from exploring a social media life. That's one of the benefits that younger generations were introduced to, and if you are in any way restricting yourself because of another generations' rules, you're likely limiting your understanding of the new territory. Some social media activity may hinder your ability to get a job, but going back to what we said before - you wouldn't want to work with those types of people anyway. Because it tells you a lot about how progressive that company is. 

Which social media site is the most popular when it comes to employers looking for background information on potential employees?

There isn't a single social media outlet that I don't look at. Before I hire somebody I look deeper to actually see which accounts they use. You can likely find something like the cloud and see which other profiles are linked to their social media accounts, and that's where you find the dirty stuff. 

How much of an impact does social media presence have on employment opportunities?

I don't see a low following as something that's necessarily negative, but I don't see it as something positive either. Someone that has a strong following I would absolutely consider more because I also work in social media so obviously if they can obtain followers on their own, they can do it for someone else.

How much do employers look into when checking out a potential employees online presence?

I think that it depends on why I'm looking in the first place. If I'm looking to hire the person, I look, but I don't judge. If they're posting stuff that I would think is inappropriate, it wouldn't make me not want to hire them, because I think that you should surround yourself with people that have different perspectives. 

What degree of Internet presence for self-promotion is good? 

It’s all about making a genuine connection with people, and representing yourself honestly.
— Chase Fitzgerarld

It still goes back to making a personal brand of your own, and if you're somebody who goes out and is drinking all the time and posting about it because that's what you do all the time, it's not you posting it that's the concern, it's the fact that you're going out and drinking all the time that is. But still, when you're trying to establish your own personal brand, try to be as genuine as you can on any platform, and anybody that doesn't like that is someone you probably shouldn't work with in the first place. So it's all about making a genuine connection with people and representing yourself honestly.

Given today’s age, where technology and social media use are prominent, what are your thoughts on doing a quick search and realizing that a potential job or internship candidate has no online presence?

It would probably be a turn off. But then again, I'm hiring for social media jobs. If their resume was impressive enough, I would find it intriguing. Like if they were a super creative type and had no social media presence whatsoever, I would have to assume a) they had a genuine reason not to be on social media or b) they have an account that I can't find. And if the case is B, then because they seem to be more advanced at that than I am, I would be even more intrigued. And if people don't want to have a social media presence for whatever reason, they need to get through the door in a more creative way.

Where is the line between appearing fun and social and crossing over to inappropriate?

It shouldn't be a tight line. In thinking about your work-life balance, who you are at work and who you are outside of work do not have to be different. If you're doing something that you're genuinely interested in, then sharing news about it should be normal. It's the same thing for if you were listening to music or doing something you love, you would share information about that. You have to think about whether you have surrounded yourself with people who would appreciate those posts.

Any tips on finding your personal brand? 

Travel a lot and get to know the type of people you want to work with and do your research on how those people are positioning themselves. And if you want to work in a stuck up office, present yourself in a stuck up way. If you want to work in a causal, friendly environment, then present yourself in a casual and friendly way. I think it's more about defining the type of person you are and who you'd like to surround yourself with, and then finding out how you're going to build your own personal brand around that.

What are your thoughts on Chase's tips? After hearing what he has to say, are you still weary of how you may be perceived online, or are you not going to change what you're posting? Sound off in the comments below.

Images: DTSP  and Words: Nicole Saunders

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