White Paper — Cassie Hoffman

Topic Background: Social media and networking sites have infiltrated our daily lives to a very great extent within the last decade. Although initially used solely by younger generations, they have now become the most popular channels for people of all ages to connect with friends and remain in contact with one another. While these sites are essentially meant to be resources for communication purposes, they also promote the desire to display personal information about our lives — pictures, posts to friends, status updates, etc. — which can ultimately have a negative impact on our professional lives. Employers always wish to hire employees who are most capable of taking on the job responsibilities they need handled and also want employees who are going to represent their company well. Because of this, a large number of companies use a pre-employment scan of candidates’ Facebook pages to determine whether or not they are suited to represent the company in a respectable manner. Candidates risk losing the chance for a job if employers don’t approve of the way they represent themselves in their personal lives — or at least how they display themselves on Facebook. Likewise, companies often also use posts or pictures that their employees upload on Facebook as a cause for termination.

Counterintuitivity: While Facebook in the job market can be seen as a threat because it could hurt the chances of a given employer wanting to hire a potential employee, it actually is a beneficial tool for job hunting, job advertising, and networking between colleagues. On top of that, Facebook itself is one of the fastest growing companies right now, with its number of employees increasing by an average of 50% per year. Interestingly enough, they seek employees who are fresh out of college, which is the age group that in other markets is most hindered in acquiring jobs because of our deep immersion in the world of social media.

The Facebook Economy: Later this spring, when the $5 billion IPO for Facebook goes through, the Facebook stocks are going to have a huge spike, potentially creating many new millionaires. Aside from helping the economy through stocks, however, they also will be expanding the company, creating many new jobs to help decrease the 8.5% unemployment rate. They currently employ 3,200 people, but their staff grows in number by approximately 50% each year. In a study done in 2011, results showed that Facebook contributed “about 183,000 new jobs per year in the United States and $12 billion worth of economic activity.” The only issue, however, is that a large portion of the jobs that exist at Facebook are jobs specifically geared toward technological and software development, a skill typically found only in “college graduates under 40.” That same 2011 study also showed that the average salary of a Facebook employee was $58,000 — 35% higher than the average American salary. So while the Facebook network is really beneficial for the younger generations, it doesn’t do as much for the job market of older generations.

More Grads Use Social Media To Job Hunt: Studies have shown that more college graduates are turning to the world of social media to look for jobs after graduation. About 35% of college graduates planned to use social media sites like LinkedIn and Facbook to find the right path to their careers last spring. Because of this, companies now need to update their online images to make their companies look more attractive to potential employees. Grads can even read comments from past or current employees of the company to see it from an employee’s point of view. In a survey of potential employers, about 60% said that social media tools are beneficial in attracting Generation Y candidates. In 2009, UPS used social media to recruit 29 employees. In 2010, that number skyrocketed to 955.

Warnings for Online Image: It is very common for students in both high school and college to be told by their teachers and parents to be wary of what they post on their Facebook pages. In high school, students are told that colleges may look at their Facebook when making their admission decision. In college, students are told that their potential employers may browse their page. Often times, students don’t take the warning as seriously as they should. A study by researchers at University of Dayton found that 40% of companies would consider looking through a potential employee’s Facebook page before making their decision. Employers believe that they have the right to get a full impression of the person they are to hire before they make any decisions. But students feel that this practice is unfair — an invasion of privacy. About 32% of students said it is unethical for companies to do this, however only 17% of employers agreed. One issue that both sides can agree is unfair, however, is that by previewing a candidate’s Facebook profile, it violates equal-opportunity-employment laws because a company can see a student’s race, gender, or sexual preference.

Losing a Job From a Facebook Comment: In Paterson, NJ, a white first grade teacher lost her job because of a comment she had made on her Facebook page. A year ago, the teacher, Jennifer O’Brien, wrote a comment on her Facebook page that was forwarded by one of her friends to several of the parents of the children O’Brien taught. The comment was in reference to her students at her predominately African-American school, that read, in part, “I am the warden of future criminals.” She argued that she was driven to write the comment because her students wouldn’t obey her in class and that one of them had even hit her. But the judge and the students’ parents were in agreement that she deserved to be terminated. It shows that it really is necessary to be careful what is posted on Facebook because it can definitely jeopardize a career.

Topic for Smaller Papers:  Some smaller topics that could be researched farther are: analysis of the average age/gender/education level of Facebook employees, if Facebook uses a preview of their candidate’s Facebook pages prior to hiring, if there are laws regarding what can or can’t cause a person to lose their job because of what is posted on Facebook, or if seeing Facebook pages before hiring someone is a legally considered a violation of equal-opportunity-employment-acts.

Current State of Research Paper: Currently, I have a lot of different sources that are  pretty broad, but they have good pieces of information throughout them that are more narrow and closely related to my thesis. Once I get through extracting information from the rest of my sources, I’ll be able to start organizing my ideas into a logical structure. I also need to compare all my statistics and see which ones can be made stronger by pairing them with another statistic or piece of information.

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