Are you revealing more than you should on one of the most popular online social networking sites? Facebook has become so much a part of how we stay connected that some of us are forgetting that those connections often extend well beyond our anticipated audience.
Here are two examples:
1. Employers research you through a friend of a friend. Now more than ever, employers use Facebook to form opinions about those who work for them and those they're considering for employment. And for a vast majority of Facebook users, these employers don't need a password to find out what they want to know. Usually, all they need to know is a mutual friend.
2. Employers use deep Web searches.
Perhaps the employer has accessed the deep Web through various automated services that collect social media activity on job applicants. Even if this information is legally compliant and has filtered out protected information before reaching the hiring decision maker, it still may add more fuel (positive or negative) to the hiring manager's decision-making process than you'd expect.
So what can you do to protect yourself from prying eyes, keep your reputation intact, yet still enjoy using this popular social media site?
Consider these tips before you incriminate yourself. You don't want to post those pictures of your deep-sea fishing adventure, with a timestamp that corresponds with when you should have been at your great-aunt Bertha's funeral (the reason why you needed a few days off from work in the first place):
1. Don't trust privacy settings. While there are abundant filters, depending on them to keep your private life private can prove to be a mistake. Consider all of the safeguards connected to your credit cards. Still, every day there are countless cases of fraud. Also, the recent LinkedIn hacking incident where more than 6 million passwords were published serves as a timely Internet security reminder. Someone who wants your information badly enough will retrieve it. Moreover, many social media users don't properly use the privacy settings, and even with the best intentions you may be posting some information publicly.
2. Avoid negativity. Never post negative commentary about your boss, company, or the guy at work who needs a bath. These things will always come back to haunt you.
3. Internet conversations are (somewhat) indelible. Keep in mind that while this may be your private Facebook page, it is still the Internet. Even if you delete something, it will likely remain in cyberspace.
4. Be careful what you share. Sharing may be caring; however, on Facebook, sharing is endorsing. Those funny pictures and political statements may entertain you and your friends, but your boss or clients may not be too impressed with your attitude about banning the Big Gulp in New York City.
5. It's OK to unfriend. Make what you will and won't allow on your timeline clear to your Facebook friends. If it's in your stream, you are responsible for it. You may start with a gentle warning through a private message. If that doesn't achieve the desired results, consider unfriending those who leave compromising information on your page. This may sound harsh, but unless you are constantly checking and editing your page, this may be your only option for ensuring your good name.
Facebook's popularity proves its value in helping people stay in touch. It's a great way to share memories and life moments with those who care about you and vice versa. It's also a meaningful forum to share nuggets of business and career value, enhancing your networking goals.
By using just a little common sense, you can avoid the pitfalls that have had career-ending consequences for some, and non-returned job inquiries for others.
Be kind, be courteous, and be professional.
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog at http://careertrend.net/blog. Jacqui is a power Twitter user (@ValueIntoWords), listed on several "Best People to Follow" lists for job seekers. Visit http://pv.webbyawards.com/ballot/41 to vote for Glassdoor in the Webby Awards.