By Alex Carey
How prepared would you feel if a future employer or graduate school was to examine your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile at this very moment? Would there be any offensive language? Inappropriate pictures?
We all know that keeping your social media platforms professional is important, but there’s more to it than we may think.
On Tuesday, Oct 28 at 12:30 p.m. in Robinson 402, Agnieszka McPeak, assistant professor of law at the University of Toledo College of Law, came to speak about the importance of maintaining a respectful and professional image online. In her lecture, titled “Social Media & Professionalism: How to Avoid Facebook Faux Pas and Twitter Troubles,” she gave examples of errors in specific posts and tweets, advice for ideal online behavior and statistics about colleges and universities handling social media profiles.
“I think the biggest problem is the disconnect between older generations who might make college admission or hiring decisions versus the way young people use social media today,” said McPeak. “It’s a hyper-sharing environment. The biggest challenge is realizing that what goes online stays online forever, and that the image you project online needs to jive with your image in the real world.”
The biggest piece of advice and take-away from McPeak’s lecture was her hand-out titled “Eight Rules for Online Behavior. She stressed the below rules to anyone seeking or maintaining a professional career.
1. Your online reputation is your reputation.
2. Always act with respect and dignity.
3. Never assume your online activity is private.
4. Online anonymity is a myth.
5. Never post anything about drug use, underage drinking, or illegal activity. Ever.
6. Consider your safety.
7. Your legal rights may be under-protected online.
8. Never post anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper.
For college students, the most important thing we can do is to make sure our social media profiles remain clean, so that after our time at Albion our online presence doesn’t hinder our chances of getting a job or pursuing graduate programs.
McPeak presented statistics gathered in 2011, that showed 100 percent of all colleges use social media in some way during their admissions decision. 12 percent have rejected candidates due to unsatisfactory findings on prospective students’ social media profiles.
McPeak estimates that statistics like this have since doubled with current increasing use of social media platforms.
Not only colleges and graduate programs screen applicants’ social media sites. Employers are doing so as well.
“43 percent of all companies screen social media sites of candidates,” said McPeak. “Of the remainder, 12 percent plan to start screening in the next year.”
She further explained that 51 percent of the companies that actively use social media in their hiring process said that they have not hired someone because of what they found on social media. 33 percent said the screening process helped them like the candidate they were considering.
“If you use [social media] responsibly, it could actually help you,” said McPeak.
Caitlyn Berard, Troy senior, attended McPeak’s lecture and found the talk extremely helpful.
“I appreciated the reasons and examples for good and bad behavior on the social web,” Berard said. “She explained that one doesn’t need to fear putting ideas or photos online, because employers do want to see social and happy employees but how to be smart about sensitive topics that may arise.”
Eddie Visco, associate director or the Gerald R. Ford Institute, also thought McPeak’s lecture was interesting and relevant to Albion students – one of the reasons he asked her to come speak.
“It was a great way to introduce [University of Toledo Law] program to us, and the topic was very interesting for our students. As students become professionals here and they go out into the workforce to find employment, they need to know the tips so that they can seem more professional and get a leg up on other people competing for the job.”
Photo by Alex Carey