Social media is something that some of us have had longer than we've had a 401k. It's followed us through different periods of our life, from our mismatched college days, to our post-grad blues, even through job number one, and potentially job number two. While perhaps you have started to forget about some of those posts you made long ago, when you were certain only your close friends could see them, you might need to dig them up and decide whether or not you should get rid of them before they come back to haunt you in the future.
Wondering how your old social media profiles and posts can resurface, just like that ex-boyfriend you thought you'd never hear from again? Here are five ways they can get in the way of you and your career.
1. Potential Employers
The days of potential employers calling you in for an interview based on what they read on your resume and cover letter are over. Now, employers take to the internet to find out what you're up to and what you have been up to in the past. With just a few clicks and twenty minutes or so, HR departments can see all the way back to photos you once posted inside your Freshman dorm, a decade or more years ago, or photos of you drinking way too much, way too often, way too regularly.
Regardless if you remember taking them, there may be images of you posted from college friends with public profiles that are still linked to yours. A clean sweep means checking your own past albums as well as all the images you may be tagged in by others.
2. People You Network With
The same things goes with people you're interested in networking with. Perhaps you find someone you'd like to have as your career mentor or you are looking to create relationships with potential investors, they too may be hesitant to sit down with you based on social media posts. Or, you may notice that midway through your meeting with them, they bring up something you posted at 4 AM, one night, as a joke, that is not coming back to haunt you. Trust us, one of the first things potential colleagues do with your business card is to Google your name.
3. As Blackmail
We've read the headlines again and again of people losing jobs because of something they Tweeted years ago. Whatever you have posted on social media, even if it was just supposed to be something to make your friends laugh, can be something someone else screenshots and sends around your company or hands over to a news reporter - if they are trying to bring you down.
4. Past Opinions Represent the Present
A lot of people write, "The opinions expressed here do not represent my company or organization" on their Twitter profile. Another reason why you should go through your old social media profiles, regardless if you are still active on them or not, is because you don't want past opinions getting in the way of whether or not a company is eager to hire you to represent them in the future. Add the disclaimer just to be safe.
5. They May Be Out of Date
Your personal brand is your selling point to help you step up your career game. Making sure what it put out there on the internet, from you, accurately represents you, is something very important. You want to keep your personal brand message consistent, making sure that when people stalk you via social media, what you portray is truly what you are. A good way to make sure your personal brand is up to date is to compare your LinkedIn profile with your resume, and ensure that your most recent title can be seen across your active social media profiles.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."