The U.S. presidential election wrapped up last week, but politics remains a charged and potentially divisive issue. This brings up an interesting question for job seekers: how much of your own political beliefs should you share online and with prospective employers? How much politics is too much politics?
This is part of a larger conversation about balancing your values against how those values impact your job search. It’s important to be yourself so that you can find the right organizational culture fit. At the same time, you need to know that nearly any political posture may limit your job search options.
Tips from the Mac’s List Team:
- Remove any inflammatory political statements from social media.
- Know your Facebook privacy settings. (Need some help with this? Check out our free course, How to Wow and Woo Employers Online.)
- Practice restraint. “Don’t be the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving Dinner.”
- Don’t write anything that you wouldn’t want to be seen as a headline on a major newspaper.
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Ben Forstag, managing director of Mac’s List and I’m sitting here with Mac Prichard, founder of Mac’s List, and Jenna Forstrom, our community manager. On this week’s bonus episode we’re asking the question, how much politics is too much politics when it comes to our social media presence?
By the time this show airs we will have hopefully wrapped up the presidential election — hopefully. But elections come every year and politics are always a hot topic on social media. Now, when we talk to people about cleaning up their online profiles as part of a job search, I often encourage folks to remove overtly political content from their feeds. This is just to be safe because you want to make sure that you’re not rubbing anyone the wrong way, any prospective employers. And, actually, we share this suggestion with folks in our free online course, ‘How to Wow and Woo Employers Online.’
However, earlier this week I saw a comment left by one of our course participants. She wrote, “I do let my politics show and I’ve willingly allowed this. I want people to know about me because I believe in this country and what it stands for and I do this without grandstanding.” I thought this brought up an interesting point because having political beliefs is certainly something that a lot of us have and do and feel, and it’s this fine line between sharing who you are as a person and finding your tribe, including perhaps a future employer who belongs to the tribe and thinks like you, and also being pragmatic in your job search.
I wanted to talk to you, Mac, and you, Jenna, about this. How much do you share, whether we’re talking politics or any other personal information? Where is that fine line between sharing yourself and going overboard and sharing too much?
It’s a good question. And I would say of the three of us I’m probably the least political, but I definitely have my soap boxes that I can get on around homelessness, which is a big issue here in Portland. As a homeowner I can sympathize with other homeowners, but as someone who’s involved with social justice, I also sympathize the other way. I also own a pit bull which kind of goes with the homeless thing, but I feel like I’m constantly fighting with people on Facebook about, like, breedism and stuff like that.
But I think it’s just a fine line. I would get annoyed the same way as like I talk about my pit bull all the time, as my friends who have babies post thousands of photos of their kid. It’s just, like, how much are you willing to share. Then, when it comes to Facebook, specifically, what your privacy settings are. I share photos of my dog and my goddaughter, and that’s fine for my friends, but I don’t really want a potential employer to see that. So just making sure that your privacy settings are set up correctly. But, if you’re applying for a political role it kind of makes sense to share where you lie politically, but I don’t know. Mac, what are your thoughts?
Well, I love politics. I walked my first picket line when I was in seventh grade, protesting a dam project along the Mississippi River which we successfully stopped. Since then I’ve worked for elected officials. I’ve twice been a delegate from Oregon to national political conventions. I happen to be a Democrat but my extended family is largely Republican and it makes for great family dinners. But what unites us is a passion for service and making a difference in our community. Our politics may differ but our value is the same.
When it comes to social media and politics I separate my political life from my professional life. I don’t work for elected officials anymore. By choice. I’m focusing on different goals now, but I haven’t lost my passion for politics or social change. That value for change and service to others is what drives Mac’s List and my other company, Prichard Communications.
I think on Facebook and my other social accounts, I don’t post political things because the audience I’m serving on those accounts, it’s not about politics. I think your suggestion is an excellent one, Jenna. You can use your Facebook settings so you can have those conversations, just as our course participant said she wanted to do. She didn’t want to hide who she was and she was proud of her values and I say good for her.
I have found that when I have those conversations, it tends to be in groups that [have] privacy settings that are set to close because employers don’t care about that and they’re not interested to it. I think you can do both. I think you can present a professional – you can have a professional reputation or put your best foot forward professionally on LinkedIn and Facebook and other social media accounts, and if you want to have those conversations, and I think you should with others, you can do that in closed groups or you can adjust your privacy settings so that you’re reaching the people who want to engage in those kinds of conversations.
Myself, I’m pretty much a moderate. I like politics but I find myself often not posting a comment or not responding to someone else’s post on Facebook because there’s this little bug at the back of my head that says who knows who’s going to see this, and especially since I’ve worked here at Mac’s List a lot of my Facebook feed is a mix of personal friends, family, and now business connections, people I’ve connected there. I try to operate on the: I want to show who I am as a person, and my political beliefs are certainly part of that. I have some strong feelings about certain issues. But I also practice some pragmatism, sometimes holding myself back and sometimes knowing that any political statement might alienate someone and just being prepared for that.
The upshot here especially if you’re a job seeker is if you have a really strong opinion about something and you’ve posted it on Facebook and an employer, a prospective employer rejects you because of that opinion, it’s probably not an opportunity you really wanted anyway, you probably wouldn’t have fit into the office culture there, so you’re not really losing that opportunity. I think what I would tell job seekers is you just don’t want to be the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, right?
We all know who I’m talking about here.
Right, we’ve all been to that dinner.
That’s right. Where everyone feels uncomfortable. That exists on both sides of the political spectrum. Again, just practice a little bit of pragmatism, practice a little bit of self-control when you think it’s appropriate, but I don’t think you need to completely censor yourself. Because frankly, when you come across people who have social media accounts that seem completely sanitized and just they’re this perfect professional being with no personality behind them, it’s a little bit disconcerting and it doesn’t feel real.
Totally agree with that. Again, I’m like the world’s biggest plug for privacy settings on Facebook and social media. So if you ever have any questions, we have an awesome course called ‘How to Wow and Woo Employers’ and there’s a comment section. If you want to have a conversation about privacy settings, I would love to chat with you on the comment section of our closed group. That’s for free at Mac’s List.
Jenna is eagerly awaiting to have a privacy conversation with someone.
I just think it’s really appropriate and people don’t understand, like, how pervasive Facebook is and if you … You can have the best intentions in the world and complete strangers can find your profile and it’s a little freaky when you get into it. It’s very “big brother,” in my head.
Yeah, and we’re recording this before election day. It’s the height of the election season and I had two – speaking of privacy settings, Jenna – two friends from my high school invited me to join a closed group where they post political cartoons and jokes. I enjoy it. They have a certain perspective that I know people at the other end of the spectrum probably wouldn’t enjoy, but it… It’s fun, and I think because the settings are there, you can participate in groups like that.
Okay, so wrapping up. You got to be you, but you have to be a thoughtful version of you.
That sounds good to me Ben.
And like, check your language, check your grammar because people are going to see it. You want to be the most intelligent you available.
Thoughtful and intelligent.
It all goes back to advice I got when I was doing my first public information job in Boston in the 1980s when people – the newspaper was the dominant form of communication where we’re told if you don’t want to see it on the front page of the Boston Globe, don’t say it or put it in writing. I think about that when I post online.
Great, thanks guys.