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I posted a picture of my new tattoo on Twitter and my boss saw it on Facebook

The title is a lie, I don’t think any of my colleagues, least of all my manager or directors, have taken any notice or even found my Facebook page or personal Twitter account. My professional Twitter account @GishBCLLEGAL is an account of my work as a legal recruiter specialising in commercial property which I use in conjunction with LinkedIn and our company-wide social and professional media accounts. LinkedIn and Twitter are fantastic tools we use to connect with colleagues, peers, influencers, industry experts and so on. We use them to share job adverts, articles, opinions and news. We live in a brave new world supported and almost sustained by technology, instant communication and connectivity. But my personal ramblings on social media are kept well away from my professional circles. There is a good reason for this; as much as I do like my colleagues and enjoy spending time with them socially I like to keep a barrier between my personal life and my professional life. I have nothing untoward to hide, I’m quite an open book as it happens. Recently I have read a few articles around the dangers of your employers having access to your social media and some employers even making judgments on their employees and potential employees based on things they have seen on social media. Some of these are in the form of tweets and status updates that have rattled cages and others are around appearance – namely, tattoos and piercings.

Let’s start with the latter, body art. Since leaving University I have removed my piercings (ears) but I have kept up my love of tattoos, recently adding number 11 to the canvas. All of my tattoos are confined to my arms and conveniently hidden by the standard business attire I wear on a daily basis. I have no problem with this and on the occasional “dress down” Friday I’ll wear a t-shirt which inevitably allows others to see my decorations. They’re inoffensive, all black and have some relative meaning to me personally and culturally. Luckily for me I work in an environment where this is not an issue but the question around what’s acceptable and what isn’t is something of a hot topic at the moment. I recently read an article I found via LinkedIn which highlights a few issues around piercings and tattoos being visible in the work place. While I personally fully support an individual’s right to decorate their body I also accept that, although we live in the 21st century, there is a limit to what should and shouldn’t be visible and appearances can count for a lot. This is a shame in some ways and unsurprising in others. The old adage of judging a book by it’s cover comes to mind but the reality is first impressions count for a lot and unfortunately humans are fickle beings that often make that first judgment aesthetically. This is both right and wrong in my opinion and a person’s appearance often counts for very little when considering their quality and aptitude for the job. But, I believe it is something we are all guilty of and will have to live with, until we elect a tattooed Premier or one of the Royal Family gets their nose or eyebrow pierced… Even then, would anything change?

Even in this modern world there are, arguably, archaic stigmas that we still come across and have to navigate our way around on a daily basis. Social Media is arguably more of a volatile danger zone than body art. If you google “uk solicitor sacked after tweet” you will find some shocking articles and also some highly amusing articles. It’s both amazing and shocking what some people will say about their clients and colleagues in a public domain… Another article I read recently suggests that 55% of employers reject candidates after a social media search. Is this fair? Probably not. Will it change? Maybe but I would wager it’s unlikely any time soon. There is responsibility on the part of the candidate here as well. I remember when my mother first joined Facebook back in 2008 I had a text from my sister that said, “Mum’s on facebook now, keep it clean…” which was sound advice! Again, with nothing to hide I have no fears of what my colleagues may see if they search for me on Facebook and Twitter – mostly I rant about the poor train service in Birmingham and make melodramatic posts about my fear of spiders. Some of you however may find yourselves in a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde scenario which, rightly or wrongly, could be potentially dangerous to your job prospects or future career. Obviously, my mother has never been my employer but the principle is certainly relevant. There are things you post that you may not want your mother to see so there are likely to be things you post that you wouldn’t want your current or prospective employer to see either. So take care and think before you tweet.

For more information please contact Gishan Abeyratne or visit our website BCL Legal.

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