Can Social Networking be Good for your Career?

Courtesy of VistaNews by Sunbelt Software:

We’ve all heard the horror stories about how posting the wrong thing on MySpace or FaceBook can come back to haunt you at work. Stories abound about people who have been fired because of something they said on a social networking sites. From a sheriff’s deputy in Florida to a Wal-Mart cashier in Michigan to a teacher in Pennsylvania, they all have one thing in common: they all lost their jobs because of the words they wrote or the photos they shared on MySpace. You can read more about those individual cases here:

And of course, they represent only a sampling of those who have met the same fate. There are no statistics readily available regarding the number of workers fired for “inappropriate online behavior” but in a 2007 Forrester survey, 58 percent of companies interviewed reported that they had written policies restricting the use of social networks and almost 5 percent said they had fired someone for violation of those policies.

Social networking “no no’s” for employees range from divulging company secrets online to personal behavior that puts the employee (and thus the company) in a less-than-professional light. A teacher in Florida was fired for placing an “inappropriate photograph and comments” in his MySpace profile. A Goldman Sachs trader lost his job because of his FaceBook “addiction” and for posting a warning letter from his employer on his FaceBook site. A store employee in London was fired for writing an obscene remark about his company on his FaceBook site. And a university newspaper columnist was fired when comments he made on the social networking site resulted in students starting a campaign to have him removed from the paper.

Just do a web search on “fired FaceBook” or “fired MySpace” and you’ll find story after story along these lines. And for the most part, these cases only make the news when someone gets fired. Who knows how many others out there have been demoted, suspended, received pay cuts or have otherwise been disciplined by their employers without losing their jobs?

Many of those who have been fired or disciplined have protested that their employers’ actions were unfair, and some see it as a violation of their “right to freedom of speech.” What they don’t understand is that the constitutional protection of the first amendment prohibits the government from censoring your speech (that’s why it starts out with “Congress shall make no law …”). It doesn’t extend to private employers.

Many folks operate under the mistaken assumption that they can’t legally be fired unless they’ve done something wrong. But even if you can prove that your social networking behavior wasn’t a violation of any company policy, that doesn’t mean they can’t fire you for it. In most states in the U.S., employment is “at will.” That means an employer can terminate your employment without any reason at all – as long as the reason isn’t discrimination against some protected class (race, color, national origin, age, gender, religion or disability). There are exceptions in the case of unions and employment contracts, and there are also state and federal laws that prohibiting firing an employee for refusing to commit an illegal act or for taking medical leave. Firing a worker for what he or she posts on a web site doesn’t fall under any of those protections.

Because of all this, many people have decided that the best protection is to stay away from social networking entirely, and you can hardly blame them. But is that a little like deciding that the best way to protect yourself against the risk of electrocution is to cut off all the power to your home? Does it make more sense to learn to use social networking more wisely – and perhaps actually enhance your career status and opportunities in the process?

Social networking is all about getting to know more people, making contacts – something that can be very valuable in many lines of business. The trick is to cultivate the kinds of contacts that can help you advance in your job, rather than hurt your chances. That means 1) hanging out in the right places online, and 2) presenting yourself in the right way in those places.

First, then, you should be careful about which sites you join. MySpace and FaceBook are seen by many employers as the equivalent of online singles bars or at best, somewhat juvenile past times. Please don’t write to tell me how wrong this perception is, because when it comes to the impact on your job, it really doesn’t matter whether the perception is accurate or not if your boss (or your boss’s bosses) see it that way. If you want to be seen as a professional, you’re probably better off joining more business-oriented networking sites such as LinkedIn, and/or those that are specific to your occupation or industry.

Whatever sites you choose to join, make sure your profile reflects the qualities that you would present to a potential client or employer – not some fantasy life that’s better positioned for attracting a date (you just might find that this professional approach ends up attracting a higher quality of date, as well). It might seem obvious that posting suggestive photos or recounting the details of how drunk you got at last weekend’s party might not be good for your career, but people who should know better continue to do those very things – and then seem surprised when they find themselves on the “fired over FaceBook” list.

Now you might think that you can have your cake and eat it, too, by showing off your “professionalism” on the business-oriented sites and indulging your “wild side” on the “friends-oriented” sites, but that’s likely to backfire on you in more ways than one. Both the boss and your new romantic interest may very well look at both profiles, and inconsistencies just make it look as if you’re leading a double life – something that’s not likely to sit well with either.

Think you can get around it by using a pseudonym for your less savory profile? It might work – but maintaining a false identity isn’t always easy, and most of the social networking sites prohibit using false names or giving false information in their terms of service. If you’re found out, you could get kicked off the site – or much worse. In at least one case (as we discussed last month in the editorial Are You Breaking the Law by Lying Online?), criminal charges have been brought based on accessing MySpace under a fake identity. Is it really worth the risk?

Of course, some of the social networks allow you to control who can view your site, so you could always make it private. However, this might cause as many problems as it solves. Some employers will conclude that if you’re keeping your site hidden, that must mean you have something to hide.

The proper use of social networking has benefited many careers. As a self employed writer and consultant, I’ve gotten some great referrals from people I’ve connected to on LinkedIn. I know folks who have been hired by new companies or gotten promotions at least in part because of their astute use of social networking. As with any other technology, it’s neither inherently good or bad – it’s all about how you use it.

Tell us about your experiences with social networking. Has belonging to SN sites helped you to become better known in your field and enhanced your career? Have you gotten into trouble at work because of your social networking activities – or have you worried that you might? Do you think it’s unfair for employers to read employees’ social networking profiles, or is it a legitimate part of evaluating your character and fitness for the job? Is a social networking profile relevant to some jobs and not others? Do you have less respect for a colleague if you find out he/she has a MySpace site? If that site were restricted so that it’s not viewable by the general public, would that make you suspicious that it contains inappropriate content? Share your opinions at

Tips to get employers to open your email

More tips on what to avoid in yoru emails. Crucial for job seekers dying for a response.

Tips courtesy of Marcia Yudkin’s Marketing Minute ezine. While Yudkin’s focus is on business marketing – the same tips apply to your job search.

According to Jordan Ayan, CEO of SubscriberMail, 50 to 60 percent of corporate email administrators turn off images on incoming emails.

According to Marketing Sherpa, more than 60 percent of key decision makers read their email on a mobile device – which often blocks images and garbles a message designed to look pretty.

If you market to on-the-go or in-the-office business people, these trends point to short, plain-text emails (like this one) as the surest way to get your messages across as intended.

Using colorful images and designs in your emails is risky unless:

* Your main point appears in words that are not embedded in an image.

* Links that you want readers to click on include a written- out URL, such as

I have images turned off in my office computer and have received emails that appear blank, seem to be missing the links for responding or start with html coding sequences.

Not very engaging or motivating!

BtoB Magazine also suggests including a phone number for response, which many mobile recipients can simply click on to call.

Top 30 Jobs with highest growth

Here are the Top 30 fastest growing careers (at least 10 percent over the next 10 years) as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2008-2009 Occupational Outlook Handbook. Total US employment is expected to increase from 150.6 million in 2006 to 166.2 million by 2016.

1. Registered nurses
Average annual salary:
Employment change: 587,000 new jobs; 23 percent growth
2. Retail salespeople
Average annual salary: $23,940
Employment change: 557,000 new jobs; 12 percent growth
3. Customer service representatives
Average annual salary: $30,400
Employment change: 545,000 new jobs; 25 percent growth
4. Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
Average annual salary: $15,930
Employment change: 452,000 new jobs; 18 percent growth
5. Office clerks, general
Average annual salary: $25,200
Employment change: 404,000 new jobs; 13 percent growth
6. Personal and home care aides
Average annual salary: $18,180
Employment change: 389,000 new jobs; 51 percent growth
7. Home health aides
Average annual salary: $20,100
Employment change: 384,000 new jobs; 49 percent growth
8. Postsecondary teachers
Average annual salary: $56,120
Employment change: 382,000 new jobs; 23 percent growth
9. Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners
Average annual salary: $21,730
Employment change: 345,000 new jobs; 14 percent growth
10. Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants
Average annual salary:
Employment change: 264,000 new jobs; 18 percent growth
11. Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks
Average annual salary:
Employment change: 264,000 new jobs; 12 percent growth
12. Waiters and waitresses
Average annual salary:
Employment change: 255,000 new jobs; 11 percent growth
13. Childcare workers
Average annual salary: $18,820
Employment change: 248,000 new jobs; 18 percent growth
14. Executive secretaries and administrative assistants
Average annual salary: $39,160
Employment change: 239,000 new jobs; 15 percent growth
15. Computer software engineers, applications
Average annual salary: $82,000
Employment change: 226,000 new jobs; 45 percent growth
16. Accountants and auditors
Average annual salary: $60,670
Employment change: 226,000 new jobs; 18 percent growth
17. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
Average annual salary:
Employment change: 221,000 new jobs; 18 percent growth
18. Elementary school teachers, except special education
Average annual salary: $48,700
Employment change: 209,000 new jobs; 14 percent growth
19. Receptionists and information clerks
Average annual salary: $23,810
Employment change: 202,000 new jobs; 17 percent growth
20. Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer
Average annual salary: $36,320
Employment change: 193,000 new jobs; 10 percent growth
21. Maids and housekeeping cleaners
Average annual salary: $18,700
Employment change: 186,000 new jobs; 13 percent growth
22. Security guards
Average annual salary: $23,620
Employment change: 175,000 new jobs; 17 percent growth
23. Carpenters
Average annual salary:
Employment change: 150,000 new jobs; 10 percent growth
24. Management analysts
Average annual salary: $77,720
Employment change: 149,000 new jobs; 22 percent growth
25. Medical assistants
Average annual salary:
Employment change: 148,000 new jobs; 35 percent growth
26. Computer systems analysts
Average annual salary: $72,230
Employment change: 146,000 new jobs; 29 percent growth
27. Maintenance and repair workers, general
Average annual salary:
Employment change: 140,000 new jobs; 10 percent growth
28. Network systems and data communications analysts
Average annual salary: $67,460
Employment change: 140,000 new jobs; 53 percent growth
29. Food preparation worker
Average annual salary: $18,480
Employment change: 138,000 new jobs; 15 percent growth
30. Teacher assistants
Average annual salary: $21,860
Employment change: 137,000 new jobs; 10 percent growth
Salary information from the latest (May 2006) Occupational Employment Statistics, BLS
(List featured in CareerPro ezine and on

Email, shmemail…

Job seeker Randy Eby said, “I have been bit by this at least twice that I know of. Do not use graphics in e-mails for signatures and tag lines in your job search.
a. I have had occasions where my e-mail was blocked or treated as spam/junk mail because of graphics.
b. My LinkedIN banner blocked me at least twice that I know of on job submissions.
c. I also have sent inquiries concerning products or services which were blocked until I found out the cause.
d. Switch to a non graphic format for your signature.”

Good tips Randy, thanks for sharing! Here are a few more:

1. If you’ve got a crazy email address ’cause it sounded cool at the time, get a new email address that you use for your job search. One recruiter pal of mine, who hires paralegals, said she immediately dismissed a resume sent by (Yes I changed the end address!)

2. Use your own name in your new email address. That way you have a consistent brand – name on email matches name on resume.

3. Husbands and wives in job search mode, please each have your own email addresses. It’s more professional. Example: I Googled the email address of one job seeker – as the name was different. Her husband’s name came up. Checked it out on LinkedIn and there were pictures of the wife – in a bathing suit – pregnant. Whoops. She probably doesn’t want prospective employers seeing those as a first impression.

4. If you don’t have a computer at home, use the libary’s. They’re free and you can still create a free hotmail or yahoo account. Employers’ and recruiters’ preferred method of communication are email or phone. First responses are often emailed.

5. Check your email and spam folders regularly. Immediacy counts in a job search.

How to Work with Recruiters

A while back we talked about begging or building – how to network effectively. In this story, Judi Perkins shares some solid tips about building positive relationships with recruiters – before you need them Read on!

How to Work with Recruiters

Judi Perkins,

When’s the last time you responded to, or actively courted, the attention of a recruiter? When happily employed people get a call, they usually terminate it fairly quickly – because they’re happily employed. Those who are unhappily employed respond if contacted but don’t generally initiate it. On the other hand, for unemployed people, a recruiting firm is usually the very first step in the process of locating a new job.

So why do so many wait until they’re in a bind to turn to a person who can – free of charge – significantly broaden their options? It’s because, aside from horror stories and the varying skill levels of recruiters, people just don’t realize how many openings are handled by search firms.

A study by Coopers & Lybrand found that recruiters fill 64% of all vacant positions. That means only 36% are filled through advertising and other sources.

Here are a few reasons why companies use a search firm, and why you shouldn’t wait until you’re unemployed – and at a disadvantage – to be in contact with a recruiter.

a. Companies do not use recruiters as a “last resort”: Companies that have benefited from developing a relationship with a recruiter often pick up the phone to call their recruiter first and never post an opening anywhere else at all.

b. The company is targeting a specific person: It’s highly unethical for a company to contact an employee who’s working for a competitor. But they can call a recruiter to contact that person and find out if that person is open to making a change. This is only one reason why when you’re contacted by a recruiter, you should listen.

c. The good ones are already taken: Companies know that using a recruiter expands their scope of potential candidates. They want to hire achievers, people who are happy with their current company and position and appreciated by their existing organization. These people aren’t actively on the market. They aren’t reading the want ads, and they aren’t sitting home unemployed.

There’s a benefit to hiring people who are employed and open to change but not in dire straights: their priorities are more in line than those of the person who has been unemployed for a while and getting panicky as more and more money flows out of their bank account.

Employed people are more objective and better able to make a decision about changing to a new company. The unemployed person eventually begins to make concessions about what’s of value in their next job, because their priority becomes getting a job. Once they’re employed again, reflection causes the person’s original values to re-assert themselves. Suddenly their wonderful new job isn’t so wonderful anymore.

a. Value-added services: Most companies appreciate the value-added services recruiters can provide. These not only include the ability to penetrate competitor companies, but a distinct access to people the companies wouldn’t otherwise know about. A recruiter also sorts through resumes, and screens and interviews potential candidates, vastly time consuming for any hiring authority.

b. Confidential replacements: Did you accept a counter-offer with your current company? Your position could be listed with a search firm right now. Are you maxing out your sick time? Your days there might be numbered. Have you had distinctly unfavorable job performance reviews? Better polish up your resume. Your job is open, and no one knows it but your boss … and his recruiter.

If you aren’t in control of your career, then your company is. Corporate restructuring, layoffs and downsizing are taking place with alarming frequency as companies tighten their belts and look hard at who is contributing and who isn’t.

Sometimes it isn’t even a matter of contribution. In those plushy carpeted, window offices, the top executives and board members comfortably decide whose heads will roll and for what reason. Sometimes it’s simply eliminating an entire department – and it has nothing to do with you, individually, at all. For instance, it’s not uncommon for a new manager or president to come in and bring his own people with him.

A friend of mine began work in the corporate offices of a statewide corporation right after we graduated. Over the years, she obtained her MBA and continued to rise through the ranks. For twenty-five years she was with this company…..until she was laid off a few months ago. She hadn’t seen it coming. And she freaked out. It can happen that quickly, and it can happen to you.

If you want to stay in control of your career, develop a relationship with a few skilled and thorough recruiters in your industry. And when they call you, even though you’re not actively looking, listen to what they have to say – because one day, they may be calling with your perfect job.