Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Job applicants warned about the "context" of their personal online activity (social media and blogs) and job searches; In 2010, "Social Sentry" can monitor off-work social media use

Here we go again. This morning, MSN has a compelling story on the way people could be kicking their own shins with their use of social media when they’re in the job market.  The link is here.

The title is telling: "Social media can kill your career -- but not the way you think: Why you should avoid being overexposed in a digital world." That's not quite what the article says, however.

It’s not so much about the inappropriate photos (“drunken pirate”, etc). It’s more about creating an online presence that seems to dilute the importance of your career, or even whether you believe in it.

The article makes the suggesting of having at least two social network accounts. Let employers join only the “professional” one (the LinkedIn). Keep the other one (Facebook) social.  (Or maybe the analogy is Facebook:MySpace; a good SAT question.) But it seems unlikely that wouldn’t contradict their other point.  Employers may still see what you’re doing publicly.

There’s more to this. First, remember blogs and social networking profiles work differently, even though the results overlap.  Blogs may expose “sharp edges” that contradict the mission of a job even more than Facebook, partly because of the way search engines work and the way those notorious “privacy settings” are usually implemented.

Morally, it’s a good thing that blogs and social media put employers on edge, particularly in areas involving sales and jobs requiring going out and “soliciting” people for business (whether door-to-door or through online leads).  The old paradigms that sales jobs depended on have weakened as many people think they have become more independent (but maybe they really haven’t; we still have “a community”).  One could ask similar questions about "public relations".  It’s also fair to ask, is it “fair” for employers to monopolize someone’s “public life” (as in “Hannibal” – Anthong Hopkins said it so well) when they can lay people off at will so easily?

Here's another thing. It may be hard to remain "passionate" online about what you "did".  Look at how mainframe systems lost popularity and mainframe employment became episodic. It seems no longer credible to sell oneself as "just" a "mainframe professional".  Or is it?
Later on today, I found a story on Clark Howard news "Employers monitor your social networking profile" here, with software like Social Sentry (look at this other story on Venture Beat here).  The stories date to late March 2010. Howard says six out of ten employers have a social media monitoring policy (for "off work" speech, explicitly) and consider anything you say (at least outside privacy settings) to be not "private" and potentially workplace speech.  I've been warning about this for years!  Workforce Management is also reporting on this (subscription) now.

I could not find this product on the Teneros website today; see the "BillBoushka" blog April 20, 2011 for more details. (I've since been told that the product was purchased by "SocialLogix". See that blog.) 

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