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November 24, 2006

Student online posts can negatively affect job searches, says career expert

By Neil Schoenherr

In the fast-paced world of today's college student, communication is key. Cell phones, iPods and laptop computers are now the norm, not the exception. Many students have even taken to creating their own Web pages on social networking sites like Facebook.com and MySpace.com.

While being in touch and keeping friends and family informed are certainly important, students need to be careful of what they post on the Internet.

It could have a very negative impact on finding a job after graduation, says a career expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

"There are two distinct groups of people when it comes to the Internet immigrant and native users," says Mark Smith, director of The Career Center at the university. "Kids up to around age 22 are native users. They are doing things on the Internet, like blogs, instant messaging, podcasts and streaming video, that many of us immigrant users are completely unfamiliar with."

Smith calls it a digital divide younger people have held the market on these newer Internet trends for quite sometime, however the older crowd is now starting to catch on.

And what they are discovering is not always positive.

"I always tell students, 'Do not put anything on a blog, Facebook.com or MySpace.com that you wouldn't want a potential employer to look at and be comfortable with," says Smith.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, MySpace was the second fastest growing Web brand for November 2005, showing a 752 percent growth from the year before with more than 24 million visitors. Facebook came in third, with a 530 percent increase from 2004, with more than 5.8 million visitors.

Facebook, which today boasts more than 7 million visitors, is a social networking service for high school and university communities. Anyone with a valid e-mail address from a college or high school can register for and access the site, a group that includes students, alumni, faculty and staff, although the vast majority of Facebook users are students.

Both MySpace and Facebook are free and users normally create personal profiles with pictures and lists of interests.

The problem, according to Smith, is that some college students post provocative pictures, including photos of drinking and drug use, as well as references to sexual conquests.

"Students just assume that no one outside of fellow students will see the site, but increasingly employers are looking at the sites of potential hires to make sure the student seems like they have good judgment," Smith says.

Smith was recently working with a student who was looking for a job. A potential employer wanted to interview the student, but cancelled that request after seeing the student's Facebook.com page.

"This is such a new phenomena," Smith says. "The way students are using the Web is completely different now. To them, e-mail is what old people do. Students don't e-mail. They use instant messaging, which I don't do at all. These blogs are very popular with students. In fact, I was talking with some high school students who were applying to college and even they had blogs."

If a student is writing a blog or has a Facebook.com page "outlining his or her sexual conquests or how much partying they do, potential employers, and maybe at some point in the future, potential colleges, are going to take those things into account," Smith says. "Students just need to be smart about what they choose to make public."

Photo: David Kilper

Originally published May 8, 2006

 
© 2005 The Cairo Gate