Posting this type of photo during quarantine could totally damage your career

If social media was popular when you were in college or high school, you most likely remember getting the lecture that what you post online could hurt your career because a) it never goes away, even if you delete it and b) you might post something an employer doesn’t want to see.

Many have learned the lesson the hard way, either being rejected or fired from a job because of a social media post that was published in poor taste. Whether you stay away from posting your political views or your drunk weekend photos, there may be another type of post that you want to avoid right now: the “social distancing rule-breaking” photos.

You might be thinking, could this really hurt my career right now? Dream job coach and talent acquisition expert Lindsay Mustain says yes, it really can. And you should avoid it at all costs.

Social distancing rule-breaking photos could limit your current and future job opportunities

Like any social media error, posting a photo of yourself not following social distancing rules can hurt your chances of impressing an employer. According to Mustain, this all goes back to the idea that your personal brand is created by what content (photos, videos, memes, etc.) you put out for the world to consume.

“Whenever you put anything onto a social media platform, I want you to question: ‘does this impact my personal brand?'” Mustain said.

According to Mustain, over 90% of recruiters and hiring managers look at your social media platforms before making the decision to interview you. With that being said, your social media presence should do one thing, which is enhance your brand as a high caliber candidate.

“When you portray ‘social distance rule-breaking photos’, the first bias that comes into my mind as a recruiter and hiring manager is ‘if this person ignores the rules set by the government, what’s the likelihood they’re actually going to play by the rules inside of my company?'” Mustain said.

On any social media platform, present yourself in the most positive light in preparation for the next step in your career. Ask yourself “what does this post, video, meme, etc. say about me?”. Every time you show up, whether physically or virtually, use the idea that I’m always positioning myself for the job that I want and deserve.

What other social media mistakes could you be making right now?

This is one of those crazy times in history that everyone in the country is going through the same crazy experience. It might even be the first major event in which social media is a tool of communication across the country. While social media is a great tool for gathering information, it can also be a place that is insensitive to many people’s feelings.

“Dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic has created economic and social situations with which society has never before dealt,” Mustain said. “You don’t know who has been affected and to what degree.”

Candidates want to eliminate bias against them in their job search as much as they possibly can, which means that posting that joke about COVID-19, a serious virus that has already killed almost 90,000 Americans, might not be the best thing to do for your career.

As a rule of thumb, Mustain suggests not posting anything online that you wouldn’t consider polite to discuss at a dinner party, potentially including topics like politics, religion, and of course, jokes about the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many people seem to think that they can play fast and loose on social media and then it turns around and bites them,” Mustain said.

These are things that Mustain recommends you always avoid doing on social media:

  • Speaking negatively about your boss (current or former)
  • Discussing why your employment ended
  • Smacktalk about your current or previous company
  • Complaining
  • Discussing how poorly your job search is going
  • Negativity
  • Talking about subjects like politics or religion
  • Discrimination of any kind
  • Gossiping
  • Trolling
  • Engaging in heated debates
  • Humblebragging
  • Any posting on social media that could violate company policy (and get you fired)
  • Memes, videos, and/or jokes that are controversial

“Think critically here…would you hire someone who is doing any of the above? Absolutely not,” Mustain said. “Hiring managers are constantly assessing if a candidate will be a good ‘cultural fit’ for their organization. You need to show up with positivity and enthusiasm.”

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This phrase is a cliche for a reason – because it is entirely true. Many times, hiring managers look at your social media before even interviewing you, so your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter timelines are your first impression.

“When you show up negatively on social media, you’re triggering additional bias that will stop you from going further in your career,” Mustain said. “Always leave a good impression for your future employer.”

How you can use social media right now to boost your career for the future

What job searchers and professionals need to understand is that their social media presence is “omnipresent”, meaning it is everywhere, and it is publicly available to anyone who has a search engine.

“Try googling your own name on google images, and you will be shocked at how easy it is to gather intel on someone,” Mustain said. “This means that a recruiter or hiring manager can research, anywhere at any time, for any reason.”

As a job seeker, you want those search results to leave a positive impression.

Mustain recommends that you reverse engineer the impact you hope to make on social media by asking yourself ultimately, “what do I want in my career?” and “are the actions that I’m taking on social media moving me closer to that career goal?”

If the way you show up in a search is how you want to position yourself as a candidate, that’s great. If it’s not, you should work on your profiles to get them where they need to be.

“Always remember your brand will follow you… good or bad,” Mustain said.

Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.