By Arthur Tam
Within the context of your career, social media can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, an online presence can be used as a tool to improve your personal brand or create key connections that can advance your career. On the other, it could repel future employers after they see a regrettable video documenting a drunken tirade about how you wished to exact revenge on your ex for ruining your life.
Sometimes we cross the line and upload something deemed as inappropriate social media behaviour, but should that leave a lasting impact on your career? I took the liberty of canvassing a dozen individuals around Taikoo Place to see what they think about the role of their social media accounts in relationship with their careers.
Should an employer worry about an employee’s social media presence?
Evelyn, Former Assistant Manager of Sustainable Development (Real Estate), One Island East: If you have or want a role that's external facing, then it does matter what you post because you’re representing the company.
JC, Project Manager (tech), meeting client in Taikoo Place: Well, I manage the team, and I don't care unless a colleague leaks something that we are doing at work.
Esther, Executive Creative Director (Advertising), Cambridge House: I am the boss, and I don't care unless they talk ill about the agency, then I might fire them. Just kidding. I would just probably talk to them one-on-one, appeal to their maturity and tell them to behave.
David, Branding, Executive Creative Director, PCCW Tower: It's a bit of an infringement of privacy if they care too much.
Izabella, DJ (Music): No, because it deflects from your ability to do the job, everything is superficial. I'm a DJ, and it's required that put up posts at different venues that I'm at, but it doesn't reflect how good I am as a DJ.
Fiona, potential Taikoo Place employee: I'm going for an interview right now, and I've been warned not to post anything inappropriate like drunk photos or other silly things. I have friends that have just started working, and I've noticed that they've stopped posting as frequently on Facebook.
Nick, Project Manager (Construction), Devon House: No, because it’s about someone’s personal life. As long as the posts don’t include anything that might be copyright or related to the company.
Au, Clerk (Banking), Devon House: No, because there are quantifiable ways to judge someone's work performance without taking social media into account.
Do you think someone’s social media presence is a good reflection of their abilities as an employee?
Evelyn: I don't think there is a correlation. Most of my friends have a social media persona much different from how they are at work.
JC: No, I don't think you can judge someone solely based on their social media. It can play a factor if something troubling is discovered.
Esther: Not their ability, but their character.
Fiona: It sort of is. If one of your colleagues was an internet troll and displayed poor manners, would you want to work with them?
Nick: No, because it’s not an accurate portrayal of someone’s professional life.
Jessica, Officer (Banking), Officer, PCCW Tower: I think it does because someone's daily life and how they are as a person reflects how they do things, which is why I don't want my bosses looking at my accounts.
Crystal, Assistant Regional Marketing Manager (Construction), Devon House: No. You can put a broad spectrum of things on social media, but how does that relate to actual work?
Should an employer consider someone’s social media account before hiring them?
Evelyn: This is tricky because at the same time it infringes on someone’s privacy even though the information is public. You shouldn’t base your hiring solely on someone’s social media.
Esther: No, should I? I never look at someone’s social media before hiring them.
David: It's a bit of a Pandora's Box. If it's a public-facing role, it would be the due diligence of an employer to check someone's social media presence because other people are going to anyway. But if it's an administrative role, then I don't think it's much of a company's business. It's a delicate line, and it's difficult to have a one-rule fits all answer.
Izabella: No. I think it’s discrimination.
Fiona: I don't think it should be the sole criteria for assessing someone. But since the HR is going to check anyway, just don't post anything that's too outlandish.
Jessica: They shouldn't because social media is about someone's personal life unless it's a social media account specified as a business account.
Sash, Consultant (Recruitment), Cambridge House: No, but I know my boss does that. I think personal life is personal life. And as a definition of professionalism, you shouldn’t judge someone based on some weird photo they posted.
Crystal: This is fuzzy. For the most part, they shouldn't, but if there are clear red flags. I have seen people in the past post things about their work that might not have been appropriate and borderline illegal
Do you judge people on their social media posts?
Evelyn: Yes [laughs]. It’s natural, you can’t help it, especially if something extreme is posted.
David: Everyone does. You can’t help but make assumptions based on what you see. That could be in a good or bad way.
Fiona: A little bit, but I don’t make my decision about someone until I actually meet them.
Nick: All the time. I know a lot of colleagues that are very particular about which colleagues can see their account.
Jessica: I would say no, but I think everyone would say yes. It just depends on how often someone posts. If they post more, you get to know more about them. If they don't, you won't.
Are you mindful about you post?
Evelyn: I try to minimise or manage what I put on social media because a lot of your co-workers will follow you.
Esther: Sure, because I use my account to promote events and as a networking tool. So I'm particularly mindful of what I post.
David: I use LinkedIn and let others find out what I'm doing. It has probably affected me in a positive way since I have over 1,000 followers.
Izabella: I have to be active on social media as part of my job, and if I’m not, then I fall behind my competition. But I rather not be on social media because I think it's vain and I don't take selfies. It just makes me cringe.
Fiona: Since I'm looking for a job, I've been more careful.
Jessica: Yes, because of the sensitivity of my industry.
Au: I wouldn’t post anything that’s work-related because it wouldn’t just influence your relationship with your bosses, but also your colleagues.
Bosses should refrain from placing too much importance on an employee’s personal social media accounts because it might not be an accurate way of judging their skills and capabilities at work. An employee’s social media account only becomes an issue if they leak something confidential or post something inappropriate about work. But regardless, employees should be somewhat mindful about what they post, not strictly because it might affect their chances of landing a new job, but it can also affect their relationship with co-workers and clients, especially if they have an external facing job.