Tweet for the job you want, not the job you have

So, @MayorLuke is out of office, but shows maturity of a character from The Office by RTing a parody account. pic.twitter.com/sOH3wM3DQE

— Megan Duncan (@MegDunk) January 26, 2014

I was on Twitter late Saturday night when I saw three consecutive tweets from an account that parodies the current mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, as Mr.PedutoHead. They were retweets from the recently departed mayor, Luke Ravenstahl. The tweets were mocking Peduto for not clearing the ‘Burgh’s streets quickly enough. Ravenstahl was criticized when as mayor for being at an out-of-town ski resort when a huge blizzard shut down the city in 2010, making the roads impassable to even emergency ambulances.

OK – enough background.

I took a screen cap of the three tweets because I was disappointed that a political figure would be so petty on a public platform like Twitter. I was even a bit surprised  – though I shouldn’t have been. I called him out with a bit of what I intended to be light-hearted wit. He responded:

Then, Mr.PedutoHead responded, with a reference to a Grammy-nominated Pittsburgh musician:twitternew

I hate to break it to Mr.PedutoHead and Ravenstahl, but I’m not offended that Wiz got an honor from the city that inspired his words.

But, I think students can learn from the social media missteps of the man took office as America’s youngest mayor in history. We are asking social media users at younger and younger ages to make decisions about your online personality that will follow you forever.

Rule 1: Never TWI (tweet while intoxicated). Ravenstahl said he wasn’t. And, I don’t have any evidence to the contrary. Just never do it. It won’t end well.

Rule 2: Brand yourself. There needs to be enough of you – your humor, interests, personality and opinions – in your online presence to make you stand out from the crowd. By carving your niche and establishing your voice, your name and your reputation will make you valuable to employers.

Surprisingly, though, disaster can quickly strike when we are able to unleash our opinions, humor and personality in an instant to the world. Don’t forget the lessons learned from Justine Sacco.

So… Rule 3: Establish boundaries about topics. Everyone needs to make decisions about how much of the not-at-the-dinner-table topics they will share. Will you establish your ideology? Will you take a stance on a cause? Will you mix your faith or religion with discussion about your future career? Stick to these rules even when you think your opinion is too important to be ignored or your joke too funny not to be heard. If you really need to get it off your chest, message a friend.

It’s not that everything you put on social media accounts or other parts of the Web needs be related to your career, but you should use your dream job as a guide to what is appropriate. If you want to be a traditional journalist, for example, it’s best to show more restraint with your opinions than you might get to if you plan to lead a non-profit advocating for a specific cause. And, if you want to work for the CIA – maybe just keep a low profile?

(Caution: Careers have a way of meandering to their final destination. The industry you think you’re headed to may not be the one that posts a help wanted ad when you graduate.)

When students ask me what’s appropriate, I ask a question: “Would you feel comfortable showing this to a future employer?”

The goal is to tweet for the job you want, not the job you have. Especially if the job you have is “unemployed politician.”

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