5 Social Media Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Career

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Social media can be a mighty tool, helping you connect with recruiters, find job opportunities, and develop a professional reputation—if you do things the right way. Here’s what to avoid:

1. Not Being on Social Media

Nearly half of the employers said that they wouldn’t hire a candidate if they couldn’t find them online. Why? While 28% reported that they use social media to gather more information about an applicant prior to the interview, one in five respondents said simply that they “expect candidates to have an online presence.”

So, you can’t just refuse to participate in social media and hope for the best—at least not professionally. To be hirable, you must be searchable. That means having an online presence, updating your social media profiles and feeds regularly, and interacting with people in your industry.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid social media so far, the good news is that you have a clean slate. 

2. Having an Inconsistent Professional Brand

One of the most challenging aspects of building a personal brand is figuring out which parts of your personality, skill set, and experience to emphasize in a professional context. We are all multifaceted human beings. 

The difference between a personal brand and a professional brand is that the latter is just the stuff that matters to an employer. Your professional brand should also be consistent across social networks, right down to the photo you choose for your headshot.

3. Being Insincere

If you spend any time on Instagram or YouTube, you’re probably familiar with the phenomenon of influencers. These social media celebrities include actors, models, and reality TV stars—plus some homegrown famous folks who got their start online. What they have in common is the ability to influence viewers’ buying habits. The most successful can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single sponsored post.

When it comes to building a brand on social media, you can learn more from these influencers than just how to choose a camera angle or a hashtag. According to research, “perceived authenticity” matters even more than perceived attractiveness when it comes to which influencers convert consumer attention into sales. In other words, people are more likely to buy products when they sense that the seller genuinely uses and likes them.

When it comes to your brand online, you’re both the seller and the product, and everything you post tells prospective employers what they might be “buying,” so it’s important to be genuine and passionate about what you share.

4. Posting Too Frequently

If you ask hiring managers to choose reasons why they didn’t move forward with a candidate after perusing their social media. Most of the reasons are unsurprising: 40% cited inappropriate photographs, 36% listed evidence of drinking or drug use, and 31% found offensive and discriminatory comments. But at least one reason might come as a surprise: 12% said they declined to pursue a candidate because they posted too frequently.

Why is frequent posting a problem? If it looks as if you spend all day on social media, your current or prospective employer might suspect that you’re not doing much else. This is especially a problem if you’re posting during the workday while you’re employed.

5. Sharing Information That Could Get You Fired

Hopefully, you know not to post trade secrets or to say negative things about your employer, boss, or coworkers on social media. But did you know that in many cases, you don’t need to share information that isn’t yours or do anything to disparage your company to lose your job?

If you’re job seeking and feel passionate about your cause, you might decide that you don’t want to work for an employer who would dismiss your candidacy based on your beliefs. But if you’re anxious to be hired—or to hold on to your current job—it’s important to know that your social media activity may put you at risk.

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