Episode #34 – How to Navigate Social Media While Growing Your Career

Sharita: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, search consultant Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers working in the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary organizations acquire top talent, while helping professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about social media. Specifically, we’ll be discussing how you should approach social media while growing your career. Hello and welcome, Stacy.

Stacy: Hello, I’m glad to be here today.

Sharita: Stacy, we haven’t talked a lot about social media on this podcast, but it’s obviously an important part of daily life, including professional life. Can you address that briefly as we get started?

Stacy: I certainly can. As everybody knows, social media has evolved since it started. There are now more social media sites than ever, and the many ways they can affect a person’s life have also changed. For example, at the beginning, people didn’t worry about their social media accounts at all when it came to their career. They didn’t give it a second thought. But then over time, they did become concerned, and that’s because employers began to become concerned.

What happened was that professionals realized prospective employers were looking at their social media profiles during the hiring process. So then those professionals became cognizant of what their profiles contained. Now, during the past few years, professionals realize that their current employers are also looking at their social media profiles, not just prospective ones. That’s given them even more reason to be vigilant about what they post.

Sharita: The news has been filled with stories about people who have lost their jobs because of what they’ve posted on social media.

Stacy: That’s right. All it takes is a Google search to find countless stories of people who were careless with their social media accounts and paid the price for it.

Sharita: And it’s not just Facebook, either, is it?

Stacy: It’s not. It used to be that candidates and employees just had to worry primarily about Facebook. But now, any and every social media platform has to be monitored. Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn. People who are looking to grow their careers should be careful in regards to social media across all platforms.

Sharita: Today, we’ll be talking about a specific scenario in regards to social media, is that correct?

Stacy: Yes, and that scenario involves what to do with social media once you launch your Animal Health or Veterinary job search all the way through to when you land a job and begin employment with a new organization.

Sharita: So what’s the first thing that professionals should be aware of?

Stacy: Well, if you’re making changes to your resume in anticipation of a job search, then you should be doing the same thing to your LinkedIn profile. However, you should make these changes slowly, if possible. If you make wholesale changes and improvements to your LinkedIn profile, that’s like broadcasting to the entire world, including your current employer, that you’re looking for a new job. This is an important part of a confidential job search.

Then let’s stay, hypothetically, that you complete a successful job search within the Animal Health industry or Veterinary profession. You make it through the hiring process and you receive and accept an offer of employment. As with anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle this situation within the realm of social media. Of course, as a professional, you want to do things the right way.

Sharita: Usually, there is a two-week period from the moment a candidate accepts an offer and when they begin work. So the main time period that we’re discussing is that two-week period, is that correct?

Stacy: That’s right, and there are five main steps that I want to discuss regarding the two weeks.

Sharita: What’s the first step?

Stacy: The first step is to NOT connect with potential co-workers on social media prematurely. Now, I understand that you might be excited about your new job and new co-workers. That’s great. But if you’re having trouble containing that excitement, then make a list of all the people you’ll connect with after you actually start working with them.

The second step is also very important. That step is to wait until you’ve submitted your formal notice at your current employer before making an announcement about any job change on social media. This applies to all social media, but everybody is familiar with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Sharita: Should a person wait until they’ve submitted their formal notice, or should they wait until they actually start working at their new employer?

Stacy: Ideally, you should wait until you’re actually working at your new employer. But at the very least, wait until you’ve submitted your formal letter of resignation. What you don’t want to happen is your boss finding out that you’re leaving the company on social media. That will make for a very awkward conversation. As always, you don’t want to “burn bridges,” even if you are leaving the organization.

Sharita: What’s the third step?

Stacy: The third step is to not share any of the major details of the new job on social media until after you start the job.

There’s a big difference between a simple announcement and sharing a lot of detail. In fact, if you make a simple announcement, you don’t even have to disclose where you’re going. You can just say that you’re moving on to another opportunity.

Once again, you have the option of saying nothing on social media. However, I understand how powerful the temptation is to share these things. It’s often difficult for people to hold back. That’s why I’m stressing a certain level of restraint and that they be strategic about what they share and when they share it. Timing and discretion are important when it comes to social media.

Sharita: Can or should a person say anything about their soon-to-be former employer?

Stacy: Yes, and I’m glad you brought that up, because it’s the fourth step on our list. That step is to say nice things about your previous employer.

Whatever you do on social media, do NOT badmouth your previous employer. This is like badmouthing them during an interview. In fact, it might be worse, because when you say it during an interview, just a few people hear it. On social media, the whole world hears it.

Obviously, there are reasons that you left, and perhaps there’s some “bad blood” between you and your previous employer. But there is no good reason to make social media your preferred platform for dragging that employer through the mud. That employer will not care for your actions, but more importantly, neither will your new one.

Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. Would you like to find out that the great new employee you just hired is badmouthing their previous employer on social media? No, you would not. You might even start to wonder if you made the correct decision in hiring the person.

Sharita: What if your employment there was really bad? Is it an option to just say nothing?

Stacy: Saying nothing on social media is always an option, and sometimes, it’s the best option. Like I said, though, many people have difficulty saying nothing. At the very least, no matter what happened, you can thank your previous employer for the opportunity that they gave you. True, that opportunity might have been to serve as a stepping stone to a better opportunity, but you can certainly leave that part out. The last thing you want to do is brand yourself as negative or malicious.

The rule is rather simple: when posting anything on social media about your professional life, always be professional!

Sharita: So that brings us to our fifth and final step. What is it?

Stacy: Our final step is to make the full announcement and share the details after you’ve started your new job.

Sharita: What does that entail?

Stacy: Well, you can connect with everybody with whom you want to connect, for one thing. You can also share the name of your new employer, what that employer does, your new Animal Health or Veterinary job title, and your job duties and responsibilities. All of this should be shared in a general fashion. There’s no need for a tremendous amount of detail.

On LinkedIn, you should update your profile accordingly. It might be tempting to update your profile before you officially start work, but once again, resist that temptation. Wait until the time is right.

Sharita: As we reach the end of today’s podcast, what overall advice can you give to listeners regarding their social media accounts and their careers?

Stacy: There are a few things of which you must be mindful when it comes to social media. You must be careful about the type of information you share, when you share that information, and how you’re perceived. As I mentioned earlier, timing and discretion are important factors.

Sharita: And these are things to be mindful with both your current employer and also a prospective employer?

Stacy: That’s right, which means that social media plays a role in your career all of the time. It’s not just some of the time. That’s why you can’t afford to be neglectful with what you share or how you portray yourself. Everything that you post is a direct reflection of you and can have a direct impact on your career.

Sharita: Stacy, thanks once again for sharing all of this great information with us today.

Stacy: Thank you, Sharita. I look forward to our next podcast!