Frequently, millennial clients will come to me with a job search that is, for all purposes, DOA. They’re bewildered: what went wrong? I’ll check out their resumes: no red flags there. I’ll skim their LinkedIn profiles, and again: nothing seriously amiss. They present well, and are professional dressed, so why haven’t they been able to get an interview in six months or a year, or even 2 years? And then I’ll ask them if they have a blog, or if they’re on Twitter. And then the heavens Tumblr.
In approximately 8 minutes, I know more about someone’s dirty life and times than their own mom does. I may, in fact, know more about their mom than their own dad does. With just a brief social media search, I know that they recently had an STD, got dumped 4 times in 3 years, had a raging hangover last Wednesday morning, haven’t spoken to their sister since that trip they took to Mexico, and just got their third DUI. In 15 minutes, I may know that they get drunk every night, cry every morning, lost a loved one to cancer, failed out of college, steal from their roommates, and are cheating on their spouse. Suddenly, I’m not wondering why they haven’t gotten any interviews. No. Now I’m frankly fascinated to realize that they think, with this sordid soap opera available to even the most casual observer, that they could ever have a serious job interview. Especially when people are convinced that the telenovela that is their life is “hidden” because, come on, it’s “just” on Twitter. A Twitter account noted on their LinkedIn profile. Or a blog linked to their Facebook account.
Now, it’s true: as I writer, I have tremendous respect for people who have the courage to be 100% honest and clear-eyed about their lives. That’s the bedrock of great writing. As a coach however, I’m left spluttering. My eyebrows are dancing in my hairline like thunder on a summer’s night, and I’m left to wonder, what brand, exactly, do these people think they’re presenting? Train wrecks R Us? I have to remind clients that hey, this is weird, but you do understand that we all share the same Internet, right? If I was able to find out all this information out about you so quickly, did it ever occur to you that human resources also read your blog about being roofied by your pregnant sister’s boyfriend? And then, take it a step further. Is HR going to really bring you in for an interview, and have you meet the team, or hire you, and send you out to a conference to represent (!) the company, when everyone at the conference will be Googling you and thinking, “Oh, snap! That’s the girl who got dumped by her man over text, after he gave her genital warts and came out of the closet.”
Kind of hard to maintain a certain gravitas after that, no?
Now obviously, that’s extreme. But we do all use the same Internet, and we are all connected. So even if you’re not sharing information quite that over-the-top, it doesn’t matter. Any and all information you share will be used to judge whether or not you should be called in for an interview. If you’re job-hunting, but your feed in constantly full of photos of pot; of semi-naked women and detailed discussions of how you’d like to manipulate their anatomy; of all the partying you do; of comments about blaming Jews, or why fat girls should be raped to lose weight, or that queers make you sick, or that WASPs suck in bed, or why your wife irritates you, or the porn you watch. Or if you’re so heavily on Facebook that I’m left to wonder how much time you spend liking statuses, and how much you spend on actual work.
Now. Imagine that you’re sending your resume to your Facebook friends, who then forward it on to their HR. You’ve made it very easy for HR, before they even bother looking at your LinkedIn, or resume, to check out your Facebook news feed through your friends — and remember, some companies demand that employees turn over their passwords — and whoops! Those photos of “curvy” women weight-lifting only in heels can really be a career-killer. Those comments you make to a porn star you follow, discussing the homemade facial you’d like to give her, can really kill the HR vibe. HR can take a screen-shot and email it to your friend, so the next time you email him/her asking, “What happened to my resume, I never heard back…” That sound of SILENCE you hear is your friend not wanting to get further involved, and tarnish his own career prospects.
You might be thinking, “Hey, I don’t know what you heard at that girl’s school you went to, but in ‘Merica, we have a first amendment right to express ourselves, so STFU.” Yes, Sunshine, you do have a constitutionally-mandated right to destroy your career…but don’t you deserve more? Your misery will do just fine without you pampering it.
I’m thinking about the people who may be acting badly without fully understanding what they’re doing. I’m thinking about people who got dumped, or fired; people who followed all the rules and did what they thought was right and now feel used and empty and alone; people who think they have nothing to show for all those (lost) years of working so hard. These people with broken hearts, and devastated self-esteem are saying, “Fuck it,” as they self-sabotage on a go-big-or-go-home scale. I understand that many people, left with the remains of a career foisted on them, may be experiencing a “minor” nervous breakdown, and are unable to grasp that not only are they ruining their current career/chances, but they are quite possibly sealing off potential future escape hatches.
How do you think I know about this? Because law school was three years of pure joy? Because I love being Sallie Mae’s bitch? Because I was totally thrilled to waste 5 years on a dead-and-buried relationship, that ended with a broken engagement, and me being morbidly obese, morbidly broke, and morbidly depressed? You think I don’t have up close and personal experience with bad behavior on larger-than-life scale? I get it. But I also know there’s a time and a place to discuss all of this. Tt’s not on social media, and the only people who deserve to know all the sordid details are the people who are directly, intricately involved.
It’s also important to realize that there is a huge generation gap at work in the professional world, and resentment on both sides as 20-somethings believe that their rapidly shrinking future prospects have been destroyed under debt they were encouraged to take on by older people (i.e. parents/society), while older people, having lost their savings and/or their homes, feel that society negates their experience and worth, meanwhile they can’t afford to retire and kids are taking their jobs. Add to that, many millennials think they should be able to post/say anything as the spirit moves them. However generally the people doing the hiring are in their 40s and 50s, and they see things a bit differently. And what do we do with people behaving in a way we don’t agree with? We punish them. Which means your social media footprint can kill your current and future employment options.
If you’re in pain because you were fired, you were dumped, you were rejected, and you broadcast that on Twitter, for example…realize that you’re letting all the people who told you that you’re nothing win. Your heart is broken, but you don’t have to prove those people right. Keep a diary. Scream and cry in the privacy of your room. Go drinking with your friends, and leave your phones home. Stop punishing yourself for being human, for having a heart that will break, for not trusting your gut, for loving the wrong person. Stop, finally, punishing yourself for being a fat kid, for not speaking good English, for being too brown, for being lonely.
Love yourself enough to forgive yourself. And then grit your teeth, pick yourself up, and despite your wounded, battered heart, leaking blood and bile, choose to create, out of the ashes of your fragile life, a new one, a life that one day will surprise you, sometimes, when you’re on the subway, or doing the dishes, or curled up with a lover who gets you…a life that will surprise you with incandescent moments of pure joy. (I promise.)
But please, stop broadcasting the journey on social media. It’ll only derail you in the long run.