Thanks to Social Media our world is connected like never before. It helps friends and family stay in touch more easily, holds businesses and governments more accountable than ever, produces an endless stream of cat memes to make us laugh, and has even helped overthrow tyrants.
For all the good it does, though, Social Media causes significant problems for those who misuse it. Some people waste countless hours every day with what amounts to a self-licking ice cream cone. While Social Media makes it easy to connect and share good things, it’s just as effortless to use it for bullying, spreading hatred, or hanging out your dirty laundry for the whole world to see.
On one level, our job as Career Consultants here at BogiDope is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve done a couple of hundred application reviews, you get very good at quickly identifying the good and bad in the next app you see. Once you’ve conducted a couple of hundred practice interviews, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect based on a person’s background – and how to help him or her improve.
However, Social Media can be a nightmare for both you and us! If you didn’t figure out the dangers of Social Media in your past, there’s a good chance you’ve posted things that will at least make for some painful interviews. At worst, it could prevent you from getting hired…anywhere.
It doesn’t matter how great your application and interview go. If you’ve already shown the world that you’re a raging narcissist, a bully, a racist, a drunk, or have any number of other undesirable traits, it’s a lot tougher for us to help you. In many cases, a person’s online presence has been so far gone that the best we could do was recommend deleting everything and starting over.
We don’t want it to come to that! We want you to be able to enjoy the good of Social Media and avoid any of the sins that could cost you your dream job. Better yet, we’d like your Social Media presence to improve your chances of getting that job. Over the next two weeks, we’re going to take a hard look at the good and bad of Social Media, and how to set up an account that will have recruiters dying to interview you.
Table of Contents
- It’s a Big Deal
- Mixed Blessings
- No Privacy, No Take Backs
- Free Speech, Not Free From Consequences
- Go/No-Go Items
- What is it Good For?
- Types of Social Media Users
- Types of Social Media Networks
It’s a Big Deal
Like it or not, Social Media is big business in our world. Facebook is vying with the likes of Berkshire Hathaway and Visa for the honor of becoming the next Trillion-Dollar Company. Much of this value comes from advertising revenue that other companies are all too happy to pay.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to tour the Operations Control Center (OCC) for Delta Air Lines. The OCC is an entire floor covered in extremely fancy workstations where dispatchers, maintainers, an in-house weather shop, and more work to safely and efficiently manage thousands of flights every day for a company that had about 80,000 people at the time.
At the center of this massive room stands a raised platform with just a few workstations on it. Called “The Bridge,” this section of the OCC really does hearken back to the command deck on a Naval vessel…or perhaps the starship Enterprise.
Just as a ship’s bridge has stations for major functional areas like navigation, communication, and weapons, Delta’s bridge has one station for each major functional area in the company: pilots, flight attendants, and maintenance. I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear that right next to these obviously critical areas on The Bridge was another station reserved for a company Social Media specialist.
Think about that for a moment. Delta’s only mission is to fly airplanes. The company had 80,000 people dedicated to that mission. And yet, Social Media is so critical to business in our world these days that they reserved a spot on The Bridge’s very limited real estate for it.
The military is becoming increasingly aware of and concerned with social media use. Marines are now allowed to like some political posts, but not share them. RAF Mildenhall’s Wing Commander had to apologize for liking political tweets with its official Twitter account.
The military does thorough background and security clearance checks for all members. Social Media is getting more scrutiny under those programs all the time. Whoever thought that a little blue bird would be able to cost you a security clearance?
When it comes to getting hired by a Guard or Reserve unit, Social Media gives people a unique insight into who you are. They may get a solid day or two with you when you rush their unit, but your Social Media presence can show a picture of who you’ve been for years. You’d better believe they’re going to take a look!
Knowing that a potential Guard or Reserve unit is going to look at your Social Media presence, the next question you should ask is: What are they going to find?
A great deal of good in our world happens thanks to Social Media, right? Your future unit may see that you’ve stayed connected with friends and family for a long time. They may see you giving encouragement, good advice, or photos of you helping people out or just being a fun person to hang out with.
Perhaps they’ll see that you’ve written or produced videos to help an even wider audience with something. Social platforms like YouTube offer a lifetime of education for all kinds of DIY tasks. Maybe they’ll just notice that you have a good sense of humor.
You may have also shared insights into your progress toward becoming a pilot and officer in the US military. Social Media can show a sort of proof that you’ve been involved in aviation and/or leadership in your past and that you’re likely to have aptitude in these things if your unit sends you to UPT.
All of these things are good! They’re examples of how social media could help you get hired by the unit of your dreams. However, for every good example, there’s an equal and opposite opportunity to cause yourself trouble.
If your potential unit chooses to look hard, they’ll be able to see any and every questionable thing you’ve ever posted on Social Media. Sadly, we’re not always on our best behavior on these platforms. If you have anything really bad in your past, or your profiles show a repeated tendency toward unfavorable things, it will all be exposed. Like it or not, this could absolutely prevent them from hiring you. This brings us to our next point.
No Privacy, No Take Backs
Repeat after me: there is no privacy on Social Media, ever.
If you’re smart, you’ve locked down any personal profiles so that only your friends or approved followers can see what you post. However, even if you’ve done everything correctly, it’s trivial for any of them to take a screenshot of anything you post and share it with the world. Never ever post something that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see the moment before you arrive for a job interview.
I have a couple of female friends who happen to be fantastic pilots. The first time I flew with one friend, we’ll call her Joan, the entire flight was so perfect that I could have sworn our airplane was riding on rails. We’re all Facebook friends, and I once happened to notice that they’d posted some pictures of a girls’ trip to a Caribbean island. It looked like a lot of fun…as evidenced by pictures of them dancing on top of tables in bikinis. I’ll admit, I think they made that swimwear look fantastic. However, seeing those pictures simultaneously made me cringe. What if one of them wanted to fly for the 89th Airlift Wing or the Thunderbirds? What if one of them wanted to fly for an airline, or for a big charter company?
You may think that you’ll be able to delete your wild photos and political rants someday in the future when you need your online presence to start looking more professional. Don’t count on it. Several organizations, from Google itself to the Internet Archive, have been saving copies of the entire internet for years. It’s cheap or free for anyone to look back and dig for dirt. As employers get increasingly serious about each applicant’s Social Media presence, it will become increasingly common for them to start using these services just like they do criminal background checks.
Just don’t post something that could get you in trouble later.
Free Speech, Not Free From Consequences
The US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. That means you’re allowed to post anything you want on Social Media. Unfortunately, our culture has forgotten the fact that the Constitution does not guarantee us freedom from the consequences of our actions.
There is no law, anywhere, that protects you from losing a job opportunity because of what you post. I don’t care that you’re “just speaking your truth” or if you lead off with “I’m just saying” or that all you did was post a questionable meme that someone more clever than you thought up. If you get in trouble for what you said, it’s 100% your fault and you have no recourse.
It’s also worth noting that your Constitutional rights protect you from governmental action, but have influence on private companies. Social Media platforms are not protected soapboxes. They’re private property and you agree to abide by whatever rules they want to make up when you create your account. Even just complaining about a private Social Media company censoring you makes you look like an uneducated fool. Don’t do that to yourself.
Don’t ever post on Social Media thinking that there’s some magical protection that will keep you out of trouble for saying something controversial.
“But what kinds of things should I avoid,” you ask? Excellent question! Let’s see:
When a pilot is deciding whether to take the risk of going flying, he or she must always identify some situations that make things too risky to go. We call these Go/No-Go items, so we’ll cover the ones that apply to posting something on Social Media.
On one hand, I’m frustrated that I even need to write this list. Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager at your dream unit or company. Put your self in the shoes of your future Aircraft Commander, copilot, or crew. What kinds of things do you think they wouldn’t want to see or hear about from you? That should let your No-Go list write itself. However, since we see problems with this all the time, here’s the start of that list for those who’ve never written one of their own:
Don’t do it. It’s stupid and it’s been out of fashion since at least the 60s. For military pilots especially, you will serve with people from every race you can imagine. There are incredible heroes and dirtbags from any group you want to designate. I promise that race has nothing to do with it.
On one hand, this is the same as racism. There is no difference in capability between men and women, especially among pilots. I’m confident that my friend Joan is a better pilot than you, and I’m confident that there are better pilots than her. Gender has nothing to do with it.
On a related note, be careful about sexism sold as religious fervor. A lot of people in our world treat women like mindless objects who need to be protected and shielded from everything…including making their own decisions…in the name of religion. I’ve noticed that the two groups most guilty of this are ultra-conservative Christians, and terror groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. If you look, you’ll be shocked to see that these groups use almost identical language when they speak about women. Don’t do it.
Hatred and/or Violence
I hope you don’t support any groups that exist, by definition, to unite some people in hatred of others. If you do, don’t post about it. Just talk a great deal about it in your interview so that the hiring team knows not to invite you back.
This one is tough. Everyone wants to talk politics, especially in election years. The 24-hour news cycle pushes politics into our faces and demands we give it our attention.
As long as your politics aren’t extreme, you can probably get away with posting about it sometimes. However, if your Social Media feed is packed with nothing but politics, it’s going to cause you problems. Nobody wants to cross the Atlantic or fly a combat mission with a person who does nothing but talk politics. If this is you, find something else to post about.
This is another tough one. It’s okay to be a person of faith, and even try to express that faith to uplift others. However, this can be taken too far.
I have great respect for one of my Air Force flying buddies and the Catholic church, but I had to completely unfollow him because his Social Media feed is almost nothing but religious posts aimed at guilting people into acting the way he wants them to. I’m happy for him to believe what he does, and for him to try and convince others. However, I don’t want to see that garbage every time I log into Social Media. Neither will the fighter squadron you’re applying to. Tone it down.
You must be careful what and whom you complain about on Social Media. If a military unit or other employer sees that you complain incessantly about your past or current employers, why should they think you wouldn’t also complain about them in the future? Flying squadrons have plenty of dirty laundry. They don’t want or need people who hang that laundry out for the whole world to see.
Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll
Well, okay, maybe it’s okay to rock. However, you should never post words, pictures, or videos even implying that you use illegal drugs. It could be an instant show-stopper for the military or any civilian flying organization governed by the Department of Transportation (eg. all of them). Even showing excessive or irresponsible alcohol consumption is a bad idea. Alcohol isn’t illegal, but it causes big problems in many organizations. An employer worried about those kinds of problems will not hire you if it appears that you consume alcohol irresponsibly.
Sex should be an obvious one too, but it gets people in trouble all the time. Posting pictures of yourself naked or in any kind of skimpy clothing could be a problem. One of the main things that Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) investigators are looking for when they do your security clearance investigation is embarrassing items in your past that could be used by a foreign power to blackmail you in the future. Naked pictures are notoriously easy for intelligence services to exploit.
Note that in the era of camera-equipped mobile electronics, even SMS or other messaging services have essentially become social media. Don’t ever text someone a picture you wouldn’t want appearing at a family dinner or a job interview. (Even poor Captain America recently messed this one up.)
There are people who compulsively post everything they eat, every workout they do, and more. Although someone may actually care about getting a play-by-play of your life, most of the world doesn’t want to see it.
A military unit that is at all concerned about OPSEC (operational security) should shun any oversharer applying for a pilot slot with them. Although the continuous stream of minutia may seem meaningless right now, it could start to include critical information later on that our enemies can use. We used to say, “Loose lips sink ships.” Perhaps now it’s “Loose posts make ghosts.”
This one is a case of oversharing gone even worse. Many people have Social Media feeds that consist almost entirely of selfies. These feeds start to lose all detail and become nothing more than “Look at me!”
No flying squadron wants to hire this person. A flying squadron is a place where the organization and its mission are more important than any one person. A Social Media presence flooded with selfies says, “I care about myself far more than anything else.” It tells a unit that you can’t see past your own needs to focus on the mission. It will make you a hard pass.
If you’re not sure whether you’re one of these people there are two easy tests. 1) If your social media feed is more than 10% selfies, you’re wrong. 2) If you regularly retake the same pictures several times to get “just the right one,” you’re wrong.
Social Media isn’t just about the things you post on your own profile. It’s also about how you interact with others. If you regularly bully other people in the comments sections of Social Media, it will get noticed. If you do it there, you’ll do it in your squadron or at your airline. Nobody wants that. If a unit or employer sees that you’re a bully, you won’t get hired.
What is it Good For?
Does our Go/No-Go List have you wondering what Social Media is good for? (I know I am!) Although there’s a lot that can go wrong with it, there are some ways to use social media without jeopardizing your chances at flying C-17s in the Memphis Guard as your FedEx side-hustle.
Connect With Friends & Family
You can and should use Social Media to keep up with your friends and family. (This should not include fighting. At least use text, a phone call, or meet in person for that.) Share pictures, joke around (avoiding No-Go items from our list), and schedule events.
Ideally, you can use your app’s settings to tailor who can see your family interactions. Your coworkers don’t need to see that your family is planning a picnic next weekend. However, unless you’re an oversharer, they’re not going to avoid hiring you if they do see the post.
Share Useful/Uplifting Content
There are a lot of great resources that exist to help people. I’m a big fan of Gene Bishop’s Aviation Career Mentorship group. The BiggerPockets Forums are an unbelievably rich resource for anyone interested in Real Estate Investing. Reddit is an information-packed rabbit hole. I’ve learned everything from how to tile a floor to fixing my car on YouTube.
Can you contribute something of value on these types of Social Media platforms? Can you respectfully and authoritatively answer questions? If so, a potential future employer may find pleasant surprises for a change when they look up your Social Media Activity.
Be careful here too. It’s possible to try so hard to uplift others that your feed becomes nothing but “inspirational” quotes and memes. That’s too much. Even if your posts are entirely secular, this basically falls under Religion in our list of No-Go items.
This one is perilous. It’s usually great to leave a positive review or compliment on social media. It’s okay to promote a cause you believe in. Just be genuine about this, and don’t make it the only thing in your feed.
If you use Social Media for this, make sure you spread the love around. If you’re constantly promoting the same business or cause, it gets old. I have some friends who found a martial arts dojo they really liked at one military assignment. I actually unfollowed them for the later half of their assignment because literally everything they posted on Social Media for over a year was promoting that place.
I’m glad they loved it, and I suspect they got discounts for spamming us about it. However, I wouldn’t want to hear that much about any business, even if I did live in that town (which I didn’t.)
Types of Social Media Users
We’ve seen some good and some bad of Social Media. Now that we know what to avoid and what you can probably get away with, I believe it’s worth deciding what type of Social Media user you want to be.
Social Media is a lot like an aircraft. Sure, you could take off and fly aimlessly around the sky. However, it’s going to cost you a lot of time and money. You probably won’t gain the skills you need to become a great pilot. A future employer won’t be impressed with your flying.
When you fly, you usually need some sort of a mission. This is especially true in the military and in commercial aviation. Go out, accomplish the mission, then land and do other things. It makes your flying effective and useful.
Social Media can work the same way for you. If you’re going to spend part of your life on it, make sure that it’s doing something for you. Let’s look at some possibilities:
The Why Bother
I’m surprised at how many Social Media profiles I see that have almost no activity or content on them. What’s the point?
Some people like to follow others’ news, but don’t want to post their own information for the world to see. While I understand that strategy, I recommend coming up with a nickname that would be nearly impossible to tie to you in a professional setting. Make sure that anyone you really care about following knows about your account and stalk them from there, but don’t leave your real name on a “Why Bother” account.
Why? Let’s again put ourselves in the shoes of a unit hiring F-22 pilots. They need people who are willing to work very hard studying and practicing. These people need to finish everything they start, without being prompted to do so. A “Why Bother” Social Media account suggests that the person either doesn’t care about details or doesn’t finish what he or she starts. If you’re on that hiring board, are you going to pick the person with that profile as your next F-22 pilot?
We already mentioned that this is a No-Go for a hiring board. If you’re desperate to share every detail of your life, stop and ask yourself: Who really cares about what you’re saying? Could you accomplish your goal with a shared photo album in iCloud or Google Photos, a group text, or even group email list?
Yes, you still need to be careful about what you post because this info can get out. However, these types of platforms come with an expectation of slightly better privacy. A potential employer can easily get access to your Social Media activity, but they probably can’t and wouldn’t dig into your private photo albums. Use these platforms for your oversharing and leave Social Media for other purposes.
I’ve mentioned a couple of versions of this person already. They post incessantly and make you wonder if they do anything else at all with their spare time. If I were on a hiring board, I wouldn’t want a spammer because I’d be worried the person doesn’t have a life and would spend all his or her time around my unit buried in a phone. Yuck.
In my opinion, this is the worst kind of spammer. These people are constantly posting on Social Media, but none of the content is their own. They’re just sharing or retweeting other people’s ideas.
I’ve noticed a lot of this lately, especially on Social Media networks intended for professionals. These individual Unoriginals think they’re “building their brand” by attaching their name to the spam they post all over social media. However, what this says to me is that they’re trying to make up for a lack of conscious thought by using others’ work to look important. To me, these people are the kids who do nothing for a group project and complain when you haven’t done all their work the night before. I would not even consider hiring one of these people.
If you want to spam the internet to “build your brand” then at least make sure you have original, insightful content to share.
Although I don’t like the concept of the Influencer, I’ll admit that there’s big money in it these days. However, you need to be warned: achieving this status is a lot more work than you think.
An Influencer is someone who establishes a large Social Media following by producing original content that others like. Some of this content is meaningful. Then there’s my wife’s old dental assistant who has hundreds of thousands of followers watching almost daily videos of her working out with a camera focused close-up on her…assets. It’s meaningless, useless “content,” but she still makes money from sponsors, ads, and more.
As an Influencer gains popularity (followers, subscribers, etc.) he or she earns increasing ad revenue on many platforms. An Influencer can also sell “sponsored” content to promote a given company’s products on his or her platform. This model has turned many people into multi-millionaires. But is the juice worth the squeeze?
If you want to become an Influencer, you first need to have something meaningful to produce content about. Then, you have to commit to posting regularly. A DIY carpentry or custom/crazy drone making Influencer could get away with posting a video every week or two. Many Influencers have to post multiple times every day.
I’ve been told that producing one minute of quality video can take 1-2 hours for editing and production. Podcasts aren’t quite as bad, but the production is still a large burden. Posting captioned pictures may seem quicker, but the burden is thinking of things to post about and spending time “getting just the right” picture. (See Raging Narcissist above.)
If you do this all correctly, you could potentially make a lot of money. However, is that your ultimate career goal? You’re probably reading BogiDope because you’re interested in a career in the military or some other part of aviation.
Put yourself in the shoes of your dream unit’s hiring board again for a minute. Would you want to hire a big Social Media Influencer? Is that person actually fun to hang out with, or would he or she be too busy posting stuff to ever be mentally present in your unit? Could all that posting become an OPSEC concern? If the Influencer is known for posting meaningless drivel, would that hurt your squadron’s image?
If you truly desire to be an influencer, then go for it. Just remember that like freedom of speech, your choice has unavoidable consequences. Make sure that the time you spend on Social Media now will help you achieve your ultimate goals in the future.
This person doesn’t necessarily post a lot of original content, but he or she does a lot of commenting on others’ posts.
If you’re commenting in order to productively answer questions and help others, then this is a good way to use Social Media. Make sure that your interactions with others are, in fact, productive and positive. You’re bound to encounter some stupid questions. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of bullying others online, even if their questions are dumb.
It’s also important to make sure that you don’t try so hard to prompt meaningful discussion that you become a permanent devil’s advocate. I know one smart pilot who is an incessant commenter on a group of my airline’s pilots on Facebook. Although he’s trying to do the right thing, he ends up presenting the worst-case scenario almost all the time. His comments are so depressing that I’ve considered unfollowing him. Don’t be like that.
A military unit or other employer may not be able to see that you’re a Commenter when they look into your Social Media. If you aren’t posting a lot on your own feeds, this may make you look like a Why Bother. If you don’t want to be perceived that way then stick to forums and places like Reddit where discussions are the focus, rather than more traditional Social Media where everything is presented in terms of your profile.
The Balanced User
Can you tell that I’m biased toward this one?
I believe a Balanced Social Media user is one that focuses on the good and uplifting parts of these platforms. He or she expresses some original thought, and takes the time to make insightful and/or helpful comments. This person is active enough to justify continued use of the Social Media platform, but not so active or detailed in his or her sharing that it looks like Social Media takes up all of their time. This person avoids the big No-Go items we discussed above.
In my mind, this is the ideal for which most of us should be striving when it comes to Social Media. I believe this type of profile gives you the best chance of getting hired at your dream unit.
The Meaningful Promoter
I’ll add this one type of user after being Balanced. The Meaningful Promoter has something important to say to the world. This person wants or needs to use Social Media to help accomplish that mission, but doesn’t want to become an Influencer.
This person needs to produce and share original content on his or her Social Media platforms. It’s also expected that this person regularly interacts with his or her followers. This is all but expected of most authors and YouTubers these days. However, don’t go overboard with audience interaction. It’s good to form connections with people, but you’re always better off just writing another post or making another video. It’s good if your followers like you, but they’re really here for the content.
Types of Social Media Networks
Most Social Media platforms are intended mainly for personal use. Many businesses and/or business people try to use these platforms to benefit their companies, but that’s not the stated mission of those platforms.
Unless you’re trying to become some type of Influencer, you can get away with being a little random on them. You don’t have to act completely serious or professional all the time. You don’t necessarily have to focus every post on your overall life mission.
Other networks are built for professionals and professional development. Of these, LinkedIn is the most prominent. Our industry doesn’t expect you to have a great LinkedIn profile, but not having one is a missed opportunity. A great profile and some meaningful interaction on this Social Media platform could boost your chances of getting hired at your next dream job.
We’ll look specifically at some ways to build a great LinkedIn profile next week. Until then, fly safe!
T-38 formation departure: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1380627/formation.
The ship’s bridge: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1113897/bridge.
The F-18 is from: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1638656/f-18-hornet.
Our swan rider’s post is publicly available here on Facebook. (And that’s sort of the point.)
The joint warfare post is also publicly available on Facebook.
I found the “Loose lips” poster on the Wikipedia article about it.
The tile installation video is from DIYTyler’s YouTube channel. Great work dude!