Every day, countless college students and young adults browse social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, and a host of others. Many have personal web pages that allow their friends a glimpse into their "private" lives.
However, many do not understand that posting personal information online means that information about them-both positive and negative-is available to anyone who has access to a computer.
College students, or anyone beginning a job search, should be aware of the possible discrepancies of having the "wrong" information on their personal websites. Many do not think about the possible future effects of their online information. Students may not think about potential employers browsing social networking sites and checking up on them online.
These students are wrong.
The popularity of social networking sites has had a tremendous effect on how recruiters conduct job searches. Many job search and networking activities now occur online; Employers use search engines and social networking sites for background checking, reference checking, and to learn more about potential employees. Recruiters can easily use social networking sites as a "quasi-resume" bank.
Employers know the sites can provide valuable information. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2007 Job Outlook Survey , one in every ten employers is viewing online profiles and possibly factoring what they see into hiring decisions. More than 60 percent said the information they see on these profiles would influence what they think about the job candidate-and who gets hired and who does not. Yet GenYers wonder what the big deal is.
Material that may show friends how "funny" or "cool" a user is can potentially damage his or her chances with some employers. Steven Rothberg, Founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, explains, "If an employer can identify who this is and has just interviewed them, the employee might think the person exhibits a lack of judgment." If a possible recruit can post a questionable photo of themselves on The Internet for everyone to see, then who knows what they are going to do with clients, vendors, and other employees? "
Although college students and recent graduations are becoming aware of the importance of "proper" website content, the major say the issue is not relevant. They believe that what they do on their own time does not matter.
However, as they graduate from college and move into the work, it could prove awkward.
Many college students are completely unaware that anyone other than their friends has access to online profiles – sometimes the information is not meant for the eyes of parents, teachers, or anyone older than the age of twenty-five. Young adults may make the mistake of posting content about excessive drinking, gambling, non-tolerant group affiliation, or sexual contacts. When viewed by corporate recruiters or admissions officials at graduate and professional schools, such pages can make the users look immature and unprofessional.
While social networking represents a powerful tool for students, they may want to be prudent. It is possible to lose a job because of online information, especially when there is strong competition. Students may not even know when they have been passed up for an interview or job offer because of something a recruiter saw on the Internet.
Recruiters want to know what a candidate's real personality is like, but prefer G-rated information. It is better to post information about work, career goals, and interests-and not the pictures from last weekend's party. Tell the truth, but avoid sharing too much information.
Users of social networking sites should be smart about what they post. They should make sure the information casts them in a positive light, especially if they are beginning the job search process. Experts recommend only posting information online that a person would feel comfortable sharing with their grandmother.
On most social networking sites, it is the user's responsibility to maintain privacy. MySpace warns on its site, "Do not forget that your profile and MySpace forums are public spaces."
Rather than worrying about the past coming back to haunt them, one of the smartest things college-aged users can do is to take advantage of a site's privacy options, something only 17 percent of site users manage to do. Setting a higher level can eliminate the risk of third parties editing a page or adding content. Even with additional site security, it is a good idea to review your profiles and postings. Ask yourself whether you are comfortable with the image they portray of you.
Steven Rothberg warns, "Posting online is like getting a tattoo. There is nothing inherently wrong with either, but in both cases, you need to be prepared to put it out there forever and for people to see it that you may not want to see If you're not prepared to live with that, then do not do it. "