What Your Online Image Tells Employers

(Defense Media Activity)

Do you remember Laremy Tunsil, a promising athlete, touted as the number one draft prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft? Football fans everywhere wondered which team would Laremy would go to? How much would he earn? Where will his professional football career “kick off”?

Ten minutes before the draft was set to begin, Tunsil's Twitter account showed a video of him wearing a gas mask and smoking a substance from a bong. Within minutes, teams reassessed their strategies; impromptu meetings were assembled and plans were re-drawn. The first 12 teams refused to take a chance on what could be a “troubled college athlete”. They perceived his indiscretion as too risky for their brand and reputation as an organization. Estimates at the time stated that his indiscretion on social media may have cost him upwards of $7 million that night.

5 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Social Media Before Your Job Search

Was he simply “being a kid”? Was his account hacked? Was the video, as some reports indicate, years old? Does it really matter?

Job Seekers Need to Focus on Their Online Image

In today’s hyper-transparent world, companies are less comfortable taking a risk on someone who seems to: 

1. Be reckless in what they share with others, 2. Make poor decisions in their personal lives, and 3. Represent values that conflict with the company’s values.

Is this fair? Maybe, maybe not. But the company holds the paycheck, and their employees and other stakeholders must recognize that while social media is fun, fast, casual and silly, the stakes are very high for a business or personal brands.

When you consider posting something online, first ask yourself:

  1. Does this photo represent me in a way I want to be known?
    Let’s say your brand represents values of healthy living and commitment to taking care of others. Would a photo of you partying in a nightclub, with a beer in each hand, confirm that perception or could a hiring manager question your authenticity?
  2. Could this image be taken out of context?
    A friend of mine attended a costume party dressed as Daisy Duke (from the TV show “Dukes of Hazzard”). She looked exactly like the character, with the short shorts and sexy blouse. Soon after the party, she posted photos of her in costume. Soon, she noticed that her friends were sharing the photo of her dressed in costume, without the context of the costume party. The outfit was risqué, and it wasn’t long before her employer called her in to discuss its appropriateness as she was a manager of a large team of financial professionals.
  3. Is the image promoting my value?
    While social media should be friendly and should reflect your personality, your images should convey and confirm the impression you want to promote.

Isn’t Your Social Media Your Own?

I often hear, “but it’s MY Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/Twitter page… why can’t I post what I want?” Of course you can (within the site’s guidelines). Just know there are consequences to posting images that can offend, upset or concern the clients, investor, employers and networking contacts that will endorse you, refer you, and hire you.

While Laremy Tunsil was picked up by the Miami Dolphins in the 13th round, he may never know what might have happened to his career the day of the 2016 NFL Draft had he made a different choice on Twitter.

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