Allison Milton/The AS Review
Do you remember when Facebook was reserved for those with a college e-mail address? I do. I had just graduated from high school in 2006 when I received my Western e-mail address in the mail. I was so excited that I was now able to make a Facebook account. I thought I was part of an exclusive group, a member of a society of social networking fiends in which we could make a profile to exemplify what we were doing at college and to brag to our fellow high school graduates to see who has the better life now. But, little did I know that right after I started school in September of 2006, Facebook opened its doors to everyone: high school students, people who never went to college and – my parents?
Yes, it’s true. I am one of the few whose parents have opened their eyes to the world of social networking and signed up for Facebook. Although my mother was reluctant at first, she was pressured by numerous members of my extended family who have hopped on the Facebook bandwagon. Soon, I was getting posts on my wall like “What a fine young woman you have become,” from one aunt and “HAPPY BIRTHDAY … GO CRAZY,” from another. The next thing I know I have my mother on the phone asking me if I have a boyfriend because a guy friend of mine wrote on my wall asking when we were going to hang out next.
Increasingly, however, it’s not just parents that are keeping watch on online profiles, but employers and companies are too. When I went to a job conference for public relations, the same message was drilled into my brain over and over again: “Watch what you post on your Facebook; you’re in the real world now.” These professionals who hire students right after graduation said the first thing they do after they get a resume is to look them up online. Facebook, Google, Twitter. You name it, they’re going to look.
Abby Wigstrom-Carlson, human resources representative for State Farm Insurance, was present at Western’s Fall Business Career Fair on Nov. 5. She said she manages a State Farm recruitment page on Facebook and has seen profiles that have made her question applicants’ professionalism. She said one time a young woman asked to be her friend on Facebook, but Wigstrom-Carlson denied the request because the woman was wearing a bikini in her profile picture.
“Your Facebook page is a reflection of who you want to be known as in the professional community. Not just in the social community,” she said.
Lori Ruch, a claim representative at State Farm Insurance, said even if employers are not looking at your online profile, a potential Facebook friend could one day be your coworker or boss.
Coordinator for Career Planning Programs at Western’s Career Services Center Kergie Garcia said students should also be aware of their e-mail addresses they use for social networking and on their resume. E-mail addresses like PinkLady019 and LilCutie don’t sound professional and could make the applicant or student look bad in the eyes of the employer, she said.
Campus Programs Manager from CampusPoint Susan Kramer also offered advice at the career fair, saying the smartest thing students can do is block their profile or at least watch what is posted on them.
“Comments that people leave on your profile can help determine your character,” she said.
This screening of social networking sites doesn’t stop with employers, either. It might be coaches, professors and even admissions officers that use social networking to keep an eye on students.
Western senior and Elementary and Special Education major Brenna Hoane edited her Facebook page after hearing rumors that professors in the Education Department called students into their offices to discuss inappropriate pictures and statements they found on the students’ online profiles.
“I’m more careful now that [I know] my professors and future employers can check out my page,” she said. “I’d rather be warned [about this] now than have it surprise me when I start looking for a career.”
Although Facebooks can be hazardous for those who choose to post things that could potentially get them in trouble, Facebook can also be a beneficial tool when searching for a job, if it is done correctly. If a Facebook profile is used to highlight areas of a person’s personality or hobbies in a tasteful and professional way, it may help impress potential employers.
As I sit on my computer and stare blankly at my Facebook page, I debate whether or not the time has come to change my interests section from “old school video games and gangster music” to something a little more professional. I could write that my hobbies include improving the lives of my fellow peers, being a role model for adolescents and donating my free time to volunteer work and my interests include classical music, the stock market and crossword puzzles. But who am I kidding? I am not a 45-year-old accountant. I am a college student. Facebook is, after all, a social networking site. Don’t be afraid to show your personality, but make sure to do it within reason. Think first before you post a picture of yourself doing a keg stand or photo in your scandalous and scantily clad Halloween costume, because the consequences may not be worth it.