While the social media landscape often changes quickly, it’s pretty clear that networking on those sites is going to be a big part of our lives for a long time—both personally and professionally.

In many ways, social media is as much for work as it is for fun. It may have started out as a way to connect with friends and share funny cat videos, but we’ve reached a point at which social media affects your professional status, in one way or another, no matter where you work.

Here are five ways we found social media could be having an affect on your career:

Helps You Get a Job

One of the most obvious ways social media networking can have an affect on your career is in your job search, but it can have both good and bad effects if you aren’t careful. A vast majority of hiring managers say they check social networking sites to screen candidates. Generally, they aren’t trying to catch someone in bad behavior, they just have to have some way of narrowing the field a bit. So, what you want them to find in your Web history are positive impressions of your personality and your fit in their organization, support for your stated qualifications, good communication skills, a well-rounded person who receives accolades and someone who is generally positive.

You can also use social media sites like LinkedIn to stay connected to people you meet and those who are in the industry you’re interested in, so you can take advantage of opportunities that might get passed along to you through them. Social media is a great way to create your own luck when it comes to your job search.

Prevents You From Getting a Job

On the flip side, social media can have a sneaky way of preventing you from getting a gob. A majority of hiring managers say they have rejected candidates because of things they saw on networking sites. That means, when you’re in the midst of a job search, you don’t want hiring managers to find you in inappropriate photos, making negative comments and rants about your last job and co-workers, sharing confidential information about your current or previous employer, or evidence of you drinking or using drugs.

You also don’t want to get caught tweeting negatively about an interview experience or job offer because if it gets back to the hiring manager, you may get a call rescinding that offer or lose your chance to return for another interview. Make sure you check your own online history and remove any negativity you can. And keep in mind: if it’s on the Internet, someone can and will find it.

Helps You Do Your Job

Once you’re in a job, you’ll find that a lot of organizations are utilizing social media networking sites and apps in order to help you do your job more efficiently. Instant messaging and inter-office wikis are a great way for teams to collaborate, especially in companies where they might not all be working in the same physical space.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are helping businesses reach their target markets and stay in touch with clients. You can improve client relationships and boost sales by effectively using social media. Just be careful, because some industries have strict regulations that dictate how you can use social media to connect with customers and share certain information. Also, if you’re using public sites for business communications, you are very limited in how casual you can be and the kinds of things you should say online. Remember: you represent your company online.

Helps You Climb the Ladder

Social media doesn’t just help you get a job and do that job, it can also be useful in your attempts to climb the ladder at your job. You can improve chances of getting a promotion or moving to a different department by participating in online training and webinars, giving you an opportunity to attend classes or have access to learning that would be difficult to experience without the internet. You can also network with leadership on business networking sites, and keep your online profile up to date with the current training you’ve received and lists of professional organizations you’re a part of.

All of these things make you more attractive when it’s time to fill an opening in the organization. Just be careful if you're using public social networking sites to stay connected inside your organization. Hackers have been able to get into these online groups in the past and get members to share company secrets. Make sure you know who you're talking to.

Causes You to Lose Your Job

Sadly, falling into any of the major pitfalls of social media can cost you your job and could have a permanent, negative effect on your career. The first and most obvious way is if you are using social media inappropriately at work.

Most places don’t want you making personal Facebook and Twitter posts while you’re at work. But here are some other things that could happen if you mess up in social media. You could lose your job if you share confidential information about your organization, your clients, your patients or even something about a co-worker that either isn’t public news yet or is extremely personal. You could be fired for saying you’re home sick or had a family emergency and then post photos of you out with your friends or check in someplace on Foursquare.

Your organization monitors when its name shows up online, so if you're tweeting negative things about them, they will find it and act accordingly. Don’t post about how bored you are at work if you want to stay there. Don’t make off-color, tasteless, offensive, discriminatory or hateful posts or comments on other posts. You can get fired for badmouthing your customers and clients online. And if you work with children, your online activities are even more deeply scrutinized. Don’t talk about the kids, their parents, your social activities or anything you wouldn’t do in front of the children. The list of don’ts is a mile long.

To keep your job safe, make sure you are well aware of your company’s social media networking policies and remember not to participate in any kind of conduct online that wouldn’t be acceptable in the office. If you want to keep your job, you have to think before you post. Every time.

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