Could Facebook sink your internship?

After posting a picture of himself as Tinkerbell, this former intern needed more than a magic wand to restore his professional reputation. (photo courtesy Valleywags)

By Zachery Currier

When he took time off from work for a “family emergency,” a Boston bank intern never thought his boss would find out the truth – that he was skipping work to attend a Halloween party. And the boss would not have known, if the intern hadn’t posted pictures of himself in his Tinkerbell costume on Facebook.

When the intern was fired, he joined a large and growing group of people who have had their personal or professional lives irrevocably altered by an online social network.

This is a lesson all Fitchburg State University students should be highly conscious of, especially with spring internships and the interview process around the corner. While resumes and face-to-face meetings are still crucial, many job recruiters say they are using Facebook to further evaluate potential employees. This means that students need to be aware of the content on their social-media pages.

“In the digital world, the past is never the past,” notes Professor Charles Sides, internships chair for the Fitchburg State communications-media department. “You have no idea how Internet-savvy the internship reviewers that you are dealing with can be, and in some cases they can be very savvy. One wrong photo could cost a student consideration for a position.”

Teresa Rowans, a Fitchburg State student preparing for an internship, says that she has completely removed herself from Facebook. Rowans is applying for a government position and states, “I’m not taking any chances, not only because of the information that I would choose to share. The bigger risk for me is the fact that I cannot control what my friends put on my Facebook.”

In striving for a professional Web presence, Sides said, students should re-examine all forms of media that relate to them – even email addresses with juvenile domain names.

“Email addresses that you created in high school because you thought they were cool and clever are no longer relevant in your professional life,” Sides said. Domains such as hippsterdude348 or Catzpeople99 are not acceptable in the professional world.  When in doubt, he said, students should use their names.

In addition to protecting their professional reputations, students should also be aware that sites like these can affect personal security. A tendency to overshare information on personal profiles can lead to compromised safety; students are advised to take full advantage of the privacy controls available on many Web sites, including Facebook.

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