Social media and your job
Let’s face it, pretty much all of us use some form of social media these days. It can be a great way of keeping in touch with friends and family, finding news and events, or even just entertaining ourselves.
But as social media becomes even more a part of our lives and identity, there’s something else we need to consider – does it affect our jobs?
Whatever you post on the internet could potentially be seen by anyone, including employers, fellow workers, and customers. And more and more professions are introducing social media policies that staff need to follow, or there could be some serious consequences.
We’re here to explain the dos and don’ts of social media as a student and professional, so you can maintain a good reputation online.
What counts as “social media”?
What can be defined as “social media” is actually quite broad, and includes more sites than you’d think than just Facebook and Instagram. In fact, almost any online platform where content can be shared could potentially be considered social media. Some common examples include:
- Social networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter, WEChat, WhatsApp, etc)
- Professional networking platforms (LinkedIn, etc)
- Discussion forums (Reddit, Whirlpool, etc)
- Media sharing platforms (YouTube, TikTok, Flickr, Instagram, etc)
- Content production and blogs (Tumblr, WordPress, etc)
- Wikis (Wikipedia, etc)
- Gaming platforms and environments (Online games, Discord, Steam, etc)
While many of these sites and platforms allow you to post under a username or anonymously, it’s likely that it can still be tracked back to you in some way.
Take this as a general rule of thumb: if you’re putting something on the internet where other people can potentially see it, think twice before you hit post.
Your conduct on social media
While rules and policies can vary between job areas and individual organisations, there are some basic rules that are fairly common between them all. Even if the place you work or study has no specific social media policy, these are some good guidelines to follow to make sure your online presence doesn’t cause any conflict with your job or studies.
This one’s fairly obvious: make sure you behave appropriately online. There are real people behind the screens, so treat people online like you would treat them in person. And maybe think twice before letting your mate post those embarrassing photos! Other things that could get you in hot water include:
- Cyberbullying and harassing others online
- Posting obscene or offensive things
- Spreading information that is false, misleading or deceptive
Posting about your job
Be extremely careful if you make any sort of post or reference about your job (even if it’s to say something nice). If you’re posting a photo or video wearing a company uniform or on work premises, make sure this is okay according to your workplace’s policy. And if you’re unhappy with something that’s happened with work, don’t vent about it online; we know it can be tempting to badmouth your annoying colleague or a frustrating customer experience, but this can get you in a lot of trouble. Your workplace should have an appropriate channel you can take these concerns, like talking to your manager.
There are even some cases where posting about your job on personal social media sites is not allowed at all – you’ll see more about this below.
It applies to students too
Remember, these rules aren’t just for workers to follow. Universities and other education providers usually also have social media policies that are strict about what you post that might be associated with them as well. Your behaviour online could potentially lead to some serious consequences, like having your enrolment cancelled.
If you’d like to take a look at an example, here’s Bond University’s Social Media Policy – it applies to both staff and students at Bond.
As well as the general rules above, different career areas and employers can also have specific rules that their employees need to follow in regards to social media. Here are some common ones, so if your dream job appears below, you might want to take a look.
This includes almost everyone working in health, including doctors, nurses, midwives, aged carers, disability support workers, surgeons, and more.
One of the big things to consider as a healthcare professional is privacy and patient confidentiality. You need to be really careful not to post any identifying details about one of your patients. An example includes uploading pictures that might have things in the background, like scans and reports, that could potentially contain confidential information.
As a healthcare worker, your views and opinions on some matters can also be influential. Be careful when expressing opinions about social issues online. Maintaining appropriate boundaries and relationships with patients online is also very important.
You can see the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s (Aphra) guide to social media for healthcare professionals here.
As a police officer, your reputation as well as the reputation of the force as a whole is taken extremely seriously. So it’s not surprising that they have some pretty strict rules when it comes to social media.
Common things include not sharing confidential information (such as information about ongoing investigations), making comments about the police force or government, and even posting pictures of yourself in uniform on private social media.
If you want to dive a bit deeper, take a look at NSW Police’s social media policy here.
Similar to the police, the Defence Force also has clear and enforceable guidelines when it comes to personnel posting information on social media. Again, it is mostly concerned with protecting confidential information, and upholding the reputation of the Defence Force.
An interesting thing to keep in mind is that these rules apply to young people as well, whether you’re participating in a Cadet program or Defence Work Experience.
Read the ADF’s policy on social media use here.
Teachers need to be careful when posting on social media, particularly around matters relating to students. Teachers are advised to not post anything work-related to personal social media accounts, particularly if it contains any identifying information about students or other staff.
It is also very important that teachers should under no circumstances interact with students on social media, other than through official school accounts.
See more about how teachers at public schools in NSW can use social media in the Department of Education’s guide here.
Once you finish your studies and want to become a practicing lawyer, there are certain things other than your education that can affect your hopes of being admitted. One consideration is that you are a “fit and proper person” to practice. In the days of social media, what you post can be one of the things used to determine your fitness to practice.
As with many of the other professions above, client confidentiality is also incredibly important. Lawyers must make sure not to reveal any information about a client or case.
It’s not all bad
On the flip side, social media can be used as an incredibly powerful tool to put yourself out there to potential employers. These days it’s becoming more and more common for people to find work through social media channels, so making a good impression is always important. Studies show that three out of four managers will take a peek at a potential candidate’s social media profile before making a decision.
So if you are going to use social media, make sure you use it the right way.
You can find heaps more resources about the world of work on Study Work Grow here.