Social Media Fails That Can Cost You Your Job

Australians are among the heaviest users of social media in the world.

Research company Nielsen estimates that we spend on average 1.7 hours scrolling through our newsfeed each day (our favourite topic is food).

Of course, there are lots of benefits to having social media so ingrained into our lives. It’s simple to connect with family and friends these days, and you’re never bored on the train to work or sitting on the porcelain throne.

But there are a few negatives, too. Missing your stop because you were watching a cat video is one example. Losing your job is another.

Yes, social media is a minefield for employees, where one misstep can see your entire career blown to smithereens.

So to help you navigate through it, here are four social media fails to avoid if you want to keep your job.


Bagging out your employer, colleagues or customers online


Well duh, you say. Of course you can’t bag out your work or the people you work with on social media.

But the thing is, people do. All the time. And they forget that someone they work with sent them a friend request a few months ago, and they accepted even though they thought it was weird. Then they lose their job.


Letting the world know your (wildly inappropriate) personal opinions


In 2013 Justine Sacco was thirty years old, a senior director of corporate communications at American media company IAC, and about to go on holiday to Africa.

Bored in the departure lounge of Heathrow Airport while waiting to hop on a flight to Cape Town, she decided to tweet a racist joke to her 170-odd Twitter followers.

By the time she landed 11 hours later, she had become the number one worldwide trend on Twitter. And unemployed.

Not a lol, Justine.


Getting caught out by your Facebook posts


It may have been funny at the time, but it’s not when you’re tagged online.

This was certainly true in the magical case of Kevin and his wand.


General poor form on your public profiles


For job seekers, no matter how well put together your resume and cover letter is, employers are going to dig a little deeper to discover the ‘real’ you. That means Googling you, of course.

And if your social media profiles make you come across as, say, a raging alcoholic, a guy with a slightly inappropriate taste in misogynistic jokes, or even just someone who’s not particularly with it, well. Let’s just say the hiring manager could be forced to reconsider your application.

For job holders, it goes without saying that if any of your ‘against company values’ activities get out to a wider audience and can be tied back in any way to your employer, then you can kiss that pay cheque goodbye.

Case in point: Caitlin Davis. A (former) cheerleader for the New England Patriots, Caitlin famously lost her job after being pictured online next to a passed out guy who’d been covered in phallic and Nazi symbols, and had the words I’m a Jew graffitied prominently on his arm. Oh, and Caitlin had a sharpie in her hand.


The social media survival guide: how to make sure your public profiles don’t cost you your job


  • Set your Facebook profile to private. Then sign out and search for your profile to get an idea of what an outsider can see.
  • Don’t list your mobile phone number or email address on Facebook. Even if you’ve changed your name, listing your mobile phone number or email address your profile means that employers can still find you.
  • Review your Facebook profile for past indiscretions. Many Australians have had Facebook for almost a decade now. It’s worth going through those photos you were tagged in at uni and asking yourself whether you really want a future employer to see them.
  • Remember the front-page test. Before you post anything online, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable seeing it as a quote on the front page of The Australian, attributed to you.
  • Have an up-to-date professional profile. LinkedIn is already widely used in Australian professional circles, and its popularity is growing. You’re missing out on the party if you don’t have an up-to-date profile, as well as potential job opportunities.
  • Be careful accepting friend requests from colleagues. How much do you really want them to know about your personal life? And how much do you really want to know about theirs, for that matter?
  • Twitter is public, and worldwide. That is all.