I’m a huge proponent of college students keeping their Twitter accounts open to the public. One of the best parts of the site is the random and exciting exchange of information across the vast Twittersphere. When a person puts his account on private (to shield his or her tweets from the scrutiny of potential employers), that person is also limited to conversing within the comfortable boundaries of his or her followers list. I think that by being smart about what is posted, any college student can maintain an employment-friendly Twitter account that is open to the public.
The idea for this post came because I got sick of hearing people talk about “damaging your reputation” by “posting bad content” on social networking sites. What exactly constitutes bad content? I’ve decided to break it down into a few concrete categories of tweets that can hurt your chances of employment.
These are some specific things you probably want to stay away from within your 140-character updates:
“I hate my boss”
Any commentary about disliking your boss/professor/co-workers/classmates or being annoyed with your internship/job is always bad news to share on Twitter. Tweeting about your micro-managing supervisor seems like an easy way to vent to your group of friends. But in actuality, you’re potentially broadcasting this message to anyone who may search for you in the future. A prospective employer may wonder, “If this person is willing to complain about a current boss on Twitter, maybe he or she will complain about me someday, too.”
In general, Twitter is not the place for complaining. This includes constant kvetching about the weather, classes, parents, roommates, and life. Most employers look to hire people with sunny dispositions, who will contribute positively to the workplace and won’t share their discontent with the world when they have a bad day or heavy workload. Keep your tweets upbeat!
“Skipping class this morning because I’m massively hungover”
This is not the wisest thing to put on the internet. I think that most employers have an implicit understanding that college students socialize and occasionally drink alcohol. There’s nothing inherently wrong with drinking, especially if you’re over the legal age. When it becomes a problem to tweet about this activity is when you indicate that your partying habits interfere with your work or academic life. Talking about being hungover, missing class, turning in assignments late, or (my favorite) going to your internship still drunk the next morning are all not good things to share via Twitter.
Even aside from partying, tread carefully when sharing negative details about your work. Potential employers can make assumptions about your work habits based on your tweets, so if you mention that you are procrastinating getting started on a project, they may suspect that procrastination is a habit for you. Do they want to hire a self-proclaimed procrastinator? Probably not.
“Smoking a blunt with my homeboys”
At the risk of sounding like a public service announcement, drugs can have pretty serious effects on one’s personality, mood, stability, and work habits. You really don’t want to post anything that would suggest you are using drugs, whether marijuana or something more hardcore. I can’t imagine many employers wanting to hire someone who they suspect is using drugs.
Beyond posting status updates which directly state that you are using illegal substances, be aware that your “Following” list is fully visible – so if you are following WeedFeed, MarijuanaUpdate, MarijuanaInc, etc. – this can also imply an affinity for drugs. I only bring this up because I recently stumbled upon a student following more than a dozen drug-related accounts, and he had no idea that his Following list was accessible to the public.
Racist and Sexist Language
This is a tough topic to address, but it’s an important one. If your Twitter account is sending any signals that suggest you hold racist or sexist attitudes, this has the potential to really hurt you in the job search. Over the summer, I discovered a student (who happened to be Caucasian) casually dropping the N-word on Twitter. I’ve also seen students throwing around words like “slut” and “fag.” Sometimes, these words may be used in conversation with friends in a joking manner. Many employers, however, will think this is anything but a joke.
A Human Resource department’s worst nightmare is bringing in an employee who might use racist, sexist, or homophobic language in the workplace. It opens the organization up to all sorts of potential conflicts and even lawsuits. They might think that if you’re comfortable using the word “fag” on Twitter, you may spout off the same word to your gay colleague if you get in a disagreement. For this reason, it is wise to refrain from tweeting anything that could be considered hateful, discriminatory or otherwise demeaning to a group of people.
So there you have it – no complaints about your bosses or classmates, commentary on your poor work habits, admissions of drug use, or racist/sexist remarks – and your Twitter account is good to go!
…Well, not quite. I think that these are four subjects with high potential to damage your reputation if you post about them publicly on Twitter. But even if you avoid these, you still need to be mindful of the total image you are projecting, and ensure that all of your content reflects someone who is suitable to enter (and thrive in) a professional workplace.