“That party last weekend was stupid awesome. I was, like, seriously? Whatever. Did you see that picture of me on Facebook?” Okay, I have no idea if I even used current slang or not (thank you anyway Google). The point was to highlight social media’s infiltration of everyday life and conversation for members of Generation Y. The fact that Facebook and other social media sites provide the ability to share thoughts, pictures, and videos instantaneously is not necessarily the greatest thing for older members of Generation Y that are looking to enter the workforce. Having grown up with the ultimate goal to acquire more online friends than anyone else and posting descriptions and photos of what they were doing in five minute intervals, Millennials are finding that some employers are not impressed by what they see.
While it may not be a big deal to Gen Yers, previous generations are not as likely to subscribe to online sites for social purposes and are even less likely to put up photos and personal information for all the world to see. So when an employer from these generations searches a Gen Y applicant and finds out more than they ever cared to know, they may attribute the findings to a lack of maturity or professionalism and not consider the candidate for a particular position.
Because members of Generation Y have not lived as adults in a time where internet and social media were not present and available, they may not understand the implications of their actions related to these mediums. As mentors, and possibly parents, to Millennials, we need to advise them not only on the physical dangers the internet can pose, but the potential risks to their reputations and careers as well. Tips like making social pages private, especially when job searching, or creating an e-mail address other than firstname.lastname@example.org to include on a resume, may make the difference between receiving an interview or receiving an instant declination letter.
Those that are green to the way organizations run or how the world works in general may assume that there is a separation between work-life and personal-life. The message that needs to be delivered is that “there isn’t.” Gen Yers may think that they are entitled (as with everything else) to a personal life that is free from potential overlap or consequences spilling into workplace scenarios. Again, the message is, “you aren’t.” Everyone deserves to be themselves at home, especially when opportunities do not present themselves to be expressive in the workplace. However, anyone that feels badly-worded posts or photographs online that cast a bad light on their character should not be held against them because they were not done “during business hours”, is setting themselves up for a long string of disappointments and failures.
To Generation Y, I say keep it to yourself. Though it may be fun to post things online, if it’s not private, it’s probably going to hurt you, not help you. To employers, a word of caution: be careful in your recruitment processes if searching for information online is part of your strategy. Don’t set yourself up for a discrimination case just so you can try and find out if Johnny is unintelligent enough to post underage drinking photos on his Facebook page or talk about it on Twitter. While finding out as much as you can about a potential new-hire can be a good idea, be smart about how you research.
Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration. When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.