I taught Paralegal Studies for a local college. Students would send me friend requests and for a while I denied the requests. Of course, my only “public” social media account is a Twitter account. I couldn’t exactly stop people from following me there. Yet, every once in a while, I’d go check out the social media profiles of my students. It turned into a valuable teaching moment because a lot of what was being posted was up for public display…and that means potential employers could see it. If you’re looking for a job as a paralegal, it is imperative that you pay attention to what is visible on your social media accounts.
Social Media Accounts Are Not Private
There’s a big myth online that what you post on social media is private because it’s on your profile. That’s just not true. Although there are settings that you should avail yourself of to make sure that only the things you want to others who aren’t on your friends list to see, you should live by the rule that social media accounts are public. Once something is put on the Internet, it’s there forever. Even if your settings are adjusted to make your various social media accounts as private as possible, that doesn’t stop unfavorable posts from being seen by potential employers. All it takes is someone taking a screenshot of your profile and forwarding it on.
Go under your social media settings and make sure that your account is set to be as private as possible. With Facebook, this is more than choosing the “friends only” setting for your posts. It also includes turning on permission to post on your wall or to tag you in photos. This will help control what comes up when people look for you on Facebook (and potential employers will look).
Would You Want Your Boss to Read It?
While we all have a Constitutional right to freedom of speech, we must also understand that what we say (or write) may come with unexpected consequences. There are stories in the news every month of how someone lost their job (sometimes before their first day) because of something they posted online. Your posts don’t have to be racist or drug related for this to happen, either. Your post just has to be something that the employer (or potential employer) doesn’t want associated with their company. Before you post something, ask yourself whether or not you’d want your boss to read it.
A Picture Is Worth…Getting Fired Over
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr (among all the other existing social networks) are known for the ability we have to share photos. This was one of the big concerns I had for my former students. Provocative photos, photos exhibiting behavior that may be associated with gang activity, and photos of illegal drugs are just a few of the images I requested that my former students take off of their profiles. Just because you can post it, doesn’t mean that you should. Even if you live in a state that has legalized or decriminalized marijuana, you must remember that it is still illegal on the federal level. So, unless your goal is to work for a legal dispensary, those are not photos that belong on social media. In addition to depicting a paralegal participating in a crime, you’re also making yourself a target for criminal activity.
Provocative photos seem to have a natural home on social media, particularly on Instagram accounts that are private. Remember this: people can request to follow you and people who already follow you can screenshot your photos. While I’m certainly not one to criticize what others wish to do in their spare time, if you’re looking for a job as a paralegal there’s something that you must always remember. Regardless of how you feel about it, the legal industry is still extremely conservative.
A Fake Name or Profile Won’t Protect You
Facebook has recently cracked down on the use of fake personas. Facebook can and will lock down your account if they have reason to believe that you’re not who you say that you are. They’ll request that you send in legal identification in order to get access to your account. While other social media websites don’t necessarily go out of their way to shut down accounts with fake names, keep in mind what you’ve already learned: people can and will save images of your profiles. Employers can and do find these accounts. You can lose out on a job or a job opportunity.
When in Doubt, Play It Safe
If you’re looking for a job as a paralegal, play it safe with social media. Make your accounts as private as possible and be careful about what you post. Your paycheck will thank you for it!