You Career Depends on Your Decisions: Be Careful What You Post Online

post onlineParents, students, politicians, take note…. Anything you post online can cost you your future!

Whether it is losing a job, or rescinded admissions into college… there are consequences to what you post on social media sites.

No matter where you stand on free speech, don’t overlook the impact exercising this right can have on your current reputation or future opportunities.

Another way of saying this, right or wrong: people base decisions on what you post online.

Consider recent events at Harvard

What Happened

In case you missed this news, here’s what happened…

Students admitted into Harvard didn’t post memes on Harvard’s Facebook group. (They weren’t that clueless about the dangers of their actions.) But that didn’t matter.

Here’s the timeline and what got them in trouble. The official Admissions Facebook page invited admitted students to join . A page run and monitored by Harvard.

Early December 2016 | From this official group, a new group of about 100 students was independently formed. This group was designed for students to share memes about “popular culture.”

Late December 2016 | And then, another private group was formed called (at one time) “Harvard Memes for Horny Bourgeois Teens.” In order to join this private group, admitted students had to earn membership by sharing a meme in the aforementioned private group.

Early April 2016 | Harvard Admissions learned of this group and emailed members to submit an explanation of their actions for discussion with the Admissions Committee.

End of April 2016 | Letters sent to 10 students rescinding offers of admission.


Harvard covered their bases and warned students in their Facebook group. As reported in The Harvard Crimson, there were warnings and disclaimers. The Harvard 2021 Facebook group warned:

“As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.”

So what exactly does this mean? Some say it isn’t clear, but the memes which resulted in 10 students losing a place at Harvard included “jokes about the Holocaust, pedophilia, suicide, racism, school shootings, and bestiality.”

What is the moral character of someone that would post jokes on these topics? Would you want to work with someone who shared those types of jokes privately? Do you think it seeps into how they interact in the workplace or how they conduct themselves?  Apparently, Harvard believed moral character and maturity of these students was questionable.

As a private institution, Harvard doesn’t need to comply with First Amendment laws. But are those jokes protected by the First Amendment? Should they be? Or is this issue a matter of judgment?

Personal Accountability

You can say these students shouldn’t suffer for the actions they took in private. But, their actions weren’t done in private. They did it in a “private” Facebook group. Nothing published online is ever truly private.

Here are some reminders:

  • Everyone holds opinions. However, people will judge you based on what you say and how you say it, especially when you post online.
  • Any comment you post to a public group on Facebook is visible to anyone. Granted, they may have to search for it, but they can your comments by searching within a group.
  • Also, closed groups and secret (private) groups exist. To join a closed group, the administrator has to accept your request to join. A secret group also requires administrator acceptance. Posts made in closed groups are only visible to current members of the group. So it’s important to know who else is in the groups you join (your boss, colleagues, future employers, etc.)
  • Colleges and companies are using social media to evaluate candidates. This will likely continue. So avoid controversial topics, including politics and religion.

In one CareerBuilder study, 33% of employers who research candidates on social networking sites say they’ve found content that made them more likely to hire a candidate. Also, nearly a quarter (23%) found content that directly led to them hiring the candidate.

For Your Future’s Sake

Avoid the following when you post online:

  • Illegal drugs
  • Guns
  • Profanity
  • Sexually explicit material
  • Reference to alcohol
  • Spelling errors

Instead, use some of these ideas to Prove You Are the Right Fit For the Job.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Career Sherpa.


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Hannah Morgan hiring prosAbout the Author: Hannah Morgan is a career sherpa, guiding new job seekers through the treacherous terrain of job search. If you are looking for no-nonsense advice, check out her site Career Sherpa. And follow Hannah on Twitter for the latest job search news and trends!



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