Saturday, May 24, 2008

Millennials, What's On Your Profile?

The June edition of Money Magazine features a small clip of excellent advice for college grads by career counselor and author Alexandra Levit.

Levit states:

"Clean up MySpace and Facebook pages because potential employers will check them. One test: Make sure there is nothing up there you wouldn't want your grandmother to see"

Her two sentence observation should be expanded into an entire article for Millennials (and others), as it is often shocking to see what these aspiring young professionals have posted on the internet. I wrote about this a few months ago, when one young buck whose "Chick Magnet" persona made him look less than professional. Since then I have been made aware of dozens of other similar incidents that have kept people from getting jobs, clients and other opportunities.

When I talk to Millennials about social networking profiles that include wild party pics, booze, innuendos of drugs, sexy pics of themselves or friends, etc.... most defend the phenomenon and opine that the world is just different now and those things on MySpace pages are just "normal" and that it wont effect them negatively later because their generation expects these things.

Their statements of how different things are remind me of those who thought the stock market was operating under different rules in 1999 and that the dot-com companies had created a new economic reality. Certain things do not change as much as one thinks they might.

The reality is that job seekers and those concerned with building their future career should make conscious decisions about the image they portray on the internet. Regardless of if you like it or not, people will search for all your online information when making hiring and purchasing decisions. The information they find will influence their decision on if you get the job or if you win their business.

I am sure that the guy in this video would be the prize hire for any company:

Underwater beer bong

Think about this for a minute... you are 23 years old have this clip on your MySpace page and the hiring partner at a Fortune 500 company has to choose between two highly qualified candidates for one great job. She is fifty years old and the mother of three teenagers. What effect will watching this clip have on her choice?

Even those who already have jobs need to think about this, as employers are regularly searching to see how their employees are representing their brand. Very often these social networking profiles will include professional information, and you boss may not be happy about you listing your company name or logo next to the underwater beer bong or the nearly naked Playboy centerfold. Employees are an extension of the company's brand and any time you list your employer publicly they will find your profile (*a good marketing department is always searching for the brand on line!).

Take Alexandra Levit's advice and think about what grandma would say if she found your profile. It is not bad advice, because most grandparents are becoming web savvy and she probably will Google her grandchildren just to check up on you. Unless granny is a beer-bonger, you might want to rethink your profile!

Have A Great Day.



Anonymous said...

I would definitely have to agree with you Thom - I graduated from college 3 years ago and unfortunately some people I know STILL don't understand that employers are scanning their Facebook and Myspace pages.

On the flipside of that, many people don't take advantage of the privacy functions of these sites. If you don't want just anyone viewing, make some things private! I'm a big fan of Alexandra, thanks!

Andrew Weaver said...

I couldn't agree more. Most employers don't mind that their prospective hire has a Myspace of Facebook page. But when they can get on-line and see photos of the new hire living life "to the fullest", it's foolish to believe that won't affect their decision.

The reality is, first impressions are everything, no matter how advanced we have become as human beings.

Besides, what's wrong with making grandma proud?

Anonymous said...

Great post, Thom! This topic is always an interesting one. I definitely agree with the idea that people should be diligent about what they post publicly on their profiles. I particularly like how you note how "even those who already have jobs need to think about this" - that's an important reminder for all of us.

But I would like to politely disagree with the assumption that Millennials don't know or care about this issue. I teach college courses at UT Austin (and was born in 1980, so I'm only slightly removed from this group myself), and it seems that the college-aged students I see and talk to every day are actually quite savvy about this issue. I am an organizational communication instructor, so this topic comes up in many of my classes, and students appear to have a very sophisticated understanding of what is appropriate and professional. They understand and use the privacy settings on their Facebook pages, and are very aware of the fact that employers will search for them online. However, these are generally very bright students (they got into a good school like UT) who are likely to apply for competitive jobs at top notch organizations, so maybe it's a skewed sample. Either way, I just wanted to speak up for this group.

Great discussion!

thomsinger said...


You are right that not ALL Millenials are going ingnore their online professional image....However, the way I found the beer bong video, and tons of others to choose from was to go to MySpace and just start clicking around.

I think this would be a fun and interesting experiment for you to undertake, based on being a professor. Find a few students on MySpace and then click on their profiles and the profiles of their friends and see how quickly you find questionable photos, videos and comments.

Thanks for your post. You are right nobody should ever generalize "everyone" into a generational stereotype.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with your post more. Even with e-mail you should not write anything you do not want others to see.