Facebook: The Risks and Benefits

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When you login to Facebook, you see what your friends, family and fellow service members are up to -- their career progress, family updates, fears, frustrations, and funny cartoons. On Facebook it can feel like the people you're viewing and posting to, and who are viewing and commenting on your posts, are your friends, your close network. After all, you invited them to connect online, right?

Nothing is Private

Some social networks are business focused and professional, while others are more social. There is one critical rule that you cannot, under any circumstance, forget: Nothing you post online is ever, ever, ever private. Even on a site as casual as Facebook, there is no such thing as privacy.

You might be thinking, "But I have privacy settings in place," or "I don't use my real name and photo on my profile," or even "I only connect with people I know very well, such as family and close friends." Those thoughts are nice, but they do not protect you from someone in your network intentionally or accidentally doing one of the following:

  • Taking a screenshot of your post and forwarding that screenshot to someone else
  • Sharing your Facebook post (disabling this feature helps, but doesn't prevent it completely. See item above.)
  • Commenting on your post, which could mean it shows up on their Facebook timeline, thus sharing with their network

The Risks

While deployed, many of you used Facebook to keep in touch with troops or loved ones. Sometimes those posts got punchy and borderline distasteful. While many veterans tell me this is common practice to build camaraderie and morale, to someone outside your network, these posts can make them run in the other direction.

Sharing your good news, updates, funny jokes and photos might seem harmless to your Facebook friends. But consider what happens if that joke gets shared and is offensive to someone outside your network. Or, if you share on Facebook that you just got another job offer, but you haven't given notice to your current employer. Good intentions mean nothing if your Facebook posts get you in trouble on the job or in the job search.

The Opportunities

Increasingly, civilian hiring managers and recruiters are looking at social networks to vet candidates before calling them in for an interview. They are looking for indications of character, discretion, humor, and interaction with others. They want to see what the job candidate is saying when they think the recruiter isn't looking. They are also trying to assess how consistent the resume is with the online reports. For instance, if the job candidate's resume says they graduated Purdue University with honors, but their online profiles state they've never been to Indiana, there's a problem.

Instead of leaving it to chance that your Facebook profile might be viewed by a recruiter, and they might find you interesting and an attractive candidate for an open job, why not be proactive? Post about news in the industry you're targeting, share interesting insights about companies making progress to move an initiative in the career you're pursuing, and create a timeline (header photo) on your Facebook profile that shows you in the job you want, instead of just posting a photo of a sunset.

While Facebook is a social platform, you can blend your personal career goals, hobbies and interests with the qualities and talents a recruiter would like to see if/when they scan your Facebook timeline. Pay attention to your connections and ensure they represent you in the best light. While you might not post derogatory comments about political candidates, for instance, if your friends do you might get judged by them.

Take a proactive and mindful look at your Facebook profile, posts, photos and connections. Ask yourself: If I were the hiring manager for my dream company, would anything I see here concern me? If not, then great! If there are things that are concerning, remove them. Rarely will hiring managers take the steps to dig up old posts. Removing posts and untagging yourself from inappropriate photos are great first steps to cleaning up your reputation on Facebook.

Is it fair that you should consider Facebook a part of your military-to-civilian transition and not just have fun posting things and photos you'd like to? Maybe, maybe not. But today, more than 70 percent of hiring managers and recruiters are looking at candidates' online profiles before deciding whether to move them forward or not. Reality is reality.

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