A Social Media Blunder To End Your Career


I caught this post from “I’m Actually Not A Geek”‘s blog, and at first, blew right past it.

I saw this exchange on Twitter, which is a painful lesson in how NOT to use Twitter in this tough economy.

A lucky job applicant tweeted the following:

Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.

This tweet caught the attention of a Channel Partner advocate for Cisco. To which he responded:

Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.

The person who dissed the Cisco offer quickly took their Twitter account private. But Twitter search retained the record.

Just another example of someone being rather stupid online, I thought.  But the story stayed with me for a few days.

But then it dawned on me that all the rants, inappropriate language, and a littany of historical information will be available to prospective employers for years to come.  That fact alone has changed the face of employment researches, and a hard cold reminder that whatever you put online – wherever you put it, becomes part of your permanent online record.

To me, there are several important issues that should be pointed out here:

First, the hasty individual who originally Tweeted needs to recognize proper online etiquette by using proper privacy settings.  More importantly, she really didn’t understand who her audience was to begin with.

Second, it seems to me that the Cisco employee who stumbled upon her Tweet acted in an unprofessional manner.

And third, perhaps worst of all, there were other Twitter users who deployed a full attack on the girl. Nearly cyber-bullying her as they started rumors that her job offer had been rescinded, and even built a website devoted to making fun of her, even publicising her private information.

There’s no accounting for some people’s stupidity in posting rash comments like this poor soul.  But in the end, do you think it’s justified that a company deny employment based on any comment made outside of the workplace?

Weigh in here – I’m really curious to see what you think.

12 Responses to “A Social Media Blunder To End Your Career”

  1. Bridget Cavanaugh Says:

    Facinating. I see a whole new HR policy in the making here. The operative (and thus nebulous) word here is “posting”. What is the company’s definition of posting? (by the way, SM folks need to think about how they define tweeting, posting, etc. too). Is posting defined as conversation, as publicity, as citizen journalism, as graffiti, as (fill in the blank)? If Cisco defines it as conversation, then they need to treat it as such, just that, something stupid overhead at a bar. If they define it as publicity or personal journalism, then I could envision a different course of action. If they haven’t defined it, then I don’t think they should make this person a TwitPoster-Child.

    I’m highly conscious of my posting. They are absolutely a record of my personal beliefs, a reflection of personal brand, a showcase of my lack of discipline when it comes to time management and even my whereabouts should I ever seriously need an alibi. Oops, I’ve said too much. Thanks for making me think!


  2. smartblog Says:

    Excellent views Bridget. Oh that our young professionals listen to you…thanks!

  3. Mike McDowell Says:

    You know, I actually think Cisco is justified in changing their mind about hiring this individual. In the world of personal branding, social media tools can really help you or really harm you in that they can show who you truly are. For employers, it’s an opportunity to see if you are really the person you’ve been selling yourself as. I think the individual in question learned this the hard way. When using free social media tools like Twitter, you are sharing your thoughts more publicly than simply leaning over to your buddy and chatting. We should all treat the things we post as though they are entirely public.

    As I talk to people about personal branding and social media, I try to remind them that the lines of public life and private life are quickly dissolving. Accept that you will be Googled – in other words, you will be searched, be it by a potential employer, a potential mate, or your family. Accepting that you’ll be searched for, your question is now, “What will they find?” Will they find information that contradicts the person you’ve been trying to be? That could hurt you. Does it support or even strengthen the person you’ve been trying to be (publicly)? That could really help you.

    I guess the bottom line for me is that if you’re going to “say” something using a social media tool, it is very different than chatting with somebody at a bar. “Talking” through a social media tool is far more public. So, yes, we do have to show a lot of discipline when we decide to post something. Our cumulative personal brand is adjusted and tweaked slightly with every tweet, with every photo posted and with every connection we make. The fact is, we’re completely in control of the things we post, so we can’t play the victim if something we post turns out to be something we wish hadn’t been seen.

    This is a REALLY important conversation about the way things are changing and the way that the real world and the online virtual world interact. Kudos, Larry.

  4. smartblog Says:

    Great points, as always Mike. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate reading your thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to give us some awesome perspective!

  5. Sharon Miller Says:

    We regularly hear celebrities lamenting about the woes of being famous; the paparazzi, no privacy, TMZ reporting every time they say something slightly inappropriate, etc. Their are thousands of people that want to know about their every hiccup, and now their every “twitter”. Why? One reason is because we would LOVE the notoriety ourselves. We would love our 15 minutes of fame. We want others to want to know what’s going on in or heads as much as we want to know what’s going on in the heads of celebrities. Why else do we post SO MUCH of our personal information on My Space, Facebook, Twitter, etc. For many it’s a way of saying ” look at me and validate my existence!”.
    Though I am not a psychologist, when I read that twitter posting, it appeared to me that she (the poster) was sharing her feelings in hopes to get them validated, as though she were sharing it with her girlfriend over a glass of wine. After all, she is only human; are we really all required to LOVE everything we do and put on a happy face in order to brand ourselves “perfect”?
    The answer to this is yes; you are not famous, perhaps never going to be, accept it, and always be professional (even to the point of being fake if need be) when posting on social media outlets. It’s ok to need to be validated, but get your personal validations from your family and closest friends.

  6. smartblog Says:

    Spot on Sharon. Our culture of celebrity has caused some very interesting social shifts in media. With the explosion of social media, I think it’s very interesting to see how we’ll continue to monitor ourselves, while trying to reach new “fans”.

    Thanks for your insights… great!

  7. Sharon Miller Says:

    Thanks for validating my thoughts Larry!

    I’m taking a moment to bask in the fame of my posting. Aahhh 😉

  8. Barbara Codega Says:

    My mother, a school teacher, use to tell me & my siblings that you NEVER write down ANYTHING you don’t want EVERY ONE in your school, parents & teachers to see.

    Now with the internet, we all like to share our thoughts on-line, but we also need to remember ANY ONE & EVERY ONE can & will use this however they may seem fit.

    This will make me think a little more before I share on-line, but we should be able to write whatever we want, within limits. We do live in America!! Jim Gibbons is probably wishing he had thought a little more before texting something like 1,000 personal messages. Come on, What was he thinking? He wasn’t.
    A Very Good Lesson Larry!!

  9. Elisa Maser Says:

    One thing I’m noticing about social media … there’s a continued blurring between public / work / private lives. They aren’t as separate as they once were.

    I have to agree with Mike that it’s ok for the company to reconsider hiring this person. After all, would you hire someone you knew would be publicly sniping about your company as soon as they were off the clock. I think it’s reasonable for them to assume this isn’t a one time deal.

    In these economic times … why would anyone do this?

  10. Sterling Doak Says:

    Going to bring a different angle into this…

    If I were Cisco, and this person was qualified to do the job, and I caught that post… I wouldn’t do anything but continue to watch them. Yeah, it’s a CIA trick, but think of it this way: how are you supposed to find out who the spy is if you KILL ALL THE SPIES. In other words, you follow this person to find out what’s going on at Cisco that sucks, or maybe even to see if they end up liking it. Point blank, you can learn from discontents. We can’t all be little toy soldiers and if businesses are profiling people based on little comments like this and then not giving them jobs… that’s just dumb. The 30k view is, not everyone enjoys working. It’s a fact of life. But if we would all just watch instead of overreacting to this stuff, you can really get a more complete picture of someone’s personality.

    I mean Jesus fucking Christ! I don’t go to church but I hope they still let me in!

  11. Ronan Says:

    I think the notion of an ended “career” is a bit much. Whether the Cisco job went away or not is still up for debate, correct? I often wonder how much of this is cyber-lore and how much is real.

    It was stupid, sure. But it was also human. And it will be forgotten soon enough, without much harm done beyond perhaps preventing the Cisco job from coming to fruition.

    Mistake? Yes. Catastrophic? Of course not.
    Lesson learned? Giving the benefit of the doubt, I would assume so.

  12. Yoeun Pen Says:

    I agree with Cisco on this one. Her job offer wasn’t rescinded because of a poorly tagged Mardi Gras photo. She said, in her own words, that she would hate the work. Why give the job to someone who doesn’t want it?

    Given the prevalence of Twitter and Facebook, everyone should be aware that everything you post online is public record, searchable by Google.

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