Facebook timelining and your best employment interests

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

Facebook’s new timeline feature offers some nice benefits but raises alerts for attorneys in flux in their careers. You might have a great job today but we all know the economy is still in recovery and this is an election year. If you end up polishing your shoes and putting your best foot forward, make sure your timeline represents your best employment interests.

The new timeline feature allows us to scroll back in time to share and learn about the people in our social networks. I think that the glimpse into someone’s past is a humanizing experience. A general rule of thumb: If you have to explain it you should, and if you make vague statements, other people will assume meaning based on their own schema.

Allow me to make a few assumptions. One third of Facebook users build their timeline to create a permanent record and electronic scrapbook. A second third of Facebook users are sure that everything shared on others’ timelines was a published for them, personally. The last third of users appreciate the reasonable expectation of formality and privacy on Facebook timelines.

There are new cases being argued about Facebook privacy. In a recent article I read about the perils of divorcing and having your timeline reproduced in discovery. I imagine there are decision makers operating in business with a wide range of social media experience. I think Facebook users intend on sharing information with others freely and comfortably; LinkedIn users appear to be more cautious about what’s shared on their “professional” profile. Some people incorporate their Twitter and Facebook into LinkedIn and there is no bright line test or standard.

There isn’t a certification page or box to click and swear your Facebook comments are true and correct on information and belief, so on and so forth. Most intelligent and socially adept social media users know to take Facebook with a grain of salt where the author’s intent seems obvious. Business users share content and comments with sincere business intent, and are likely to be viewed as more reliable.

While the laws on Facebook and admissibility develop, so do the expectations of accuracy by potential employers. Follow a few guidelines and you should be in good shape: (1) don’t lie; (2) be consistent; (3) qualify and disclaim if it seems relevant; (4) assume a variety of opinion among your “friends” on politics and religion; and (5) review and clean up your timeline to prevent unpleasant explanation.

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