Thursday, 17 January 2013

Facebook: Oppurtunity or Threat?

Its getting towards that time when students start looking for jobs, and with that the debate on what students should do with their Facebook profile whilst going through the application process. Todays blog post offers my thoughts into this dilemma.

Without doubt, Facebook is the largest social networking site in the world. CheckFacebook (2012) offers an analytics tool into the social network, and as of today (17th Jan 2013), Facebook has just fewer than 1 billion users. Facebook can essentially be classed as an online profile of the average person’s social life, with most choosing to use it to connect with friends and share information, photos and videos. The result of this is that it has to be considered the first place in which an employer will look to find out more information about a potential employee.

There are many that call this an invasion of privacy, and call for employers to stick to looking at sites intended for professional use – such as LinkedIn. There is now an argument into the divide between personal and professional lives, and whether it is possible to keep them separated. In my opinion, there really is no argument here. It is based on the concept of power. An employer has the power to find information about my personal life, and if I am asking for them to give me thousands of pounds and invest time and effort into my development, surely he is justified in trying to learn about my personal life? Hill (2012) claimed that Facebook can be considered a digital proxy of ourselves, and reflect our personalities and interests, and employers are trying to find out more information than they would in an interview.

Many people believe that Facebook is not about creating online presence, but about hiding potential online mishaps. But not many people go beyond deleting inappropriate photos and removing explicit content from their profiles. Yes, this will prevent employers turning you away immediately and essentially giving you an online criminal record. But employers are looking for what you would be like to work with, and whether your personality would fit into their business, so this should be classed as an opportunity! Employers clearly try to uncover negatives, so why not use Facebook to turn the tides and give yourself an advantage over everybody else.

This doesn’t necessarily mean changing how you use the social network, and there are many privacy options so that employers can’t access parts of your account. But again, most people will feel threatened by this and make everything private, leaving an employer none the wiser after visiting. My point is that by just opening up just a little bit, you can leave that positive impression. It may be just a few holiday pictures, or where you went to university, or maybe even a few graduation photos. In fact, if you make your profile completely private, it may give off the impression that you are hiding something, and in a such a competitive job environment, even these little things may be the difference between getting a job or not.