Sunday, December 15, 2013

How To Destroy Your Career In One Easy, Facebooky Step

Here is a quick-reference list of six things you can do to destroy your career as a marine mammal trainer, even before it starts:

1) Committing (and being convicted of) a felony offense
2) Using drugs or alcohol, especially on the job
3) Punching someone in the face
4) Animal abuse
5) Being dishonest
6) Revealing negative or contrary personal opinions or feelings on social media

The first five things on the list seem to make sense to the majority of people.  But number 6 proves to be the most difficult no-no current and prospective animal trainers to grasp.   I've witnessed a number of people slaughter their careers thanks to a misuse of Facebook (and I'm sure it's happened on Twitter, but that thing is confusing and I just refuse to figure it out).  

Facebook, best waste of time or best career-waster.

You might think me a hypocrite, what with this entire blog revealing my opinions and experiences as a marine mammal trainer.  You'd be correct if I were breaking some kind of social media policy at work (I'm not).   I also never, ever vent on the interwebz about individual coworkers or friends, past or present.

If your next response to my last sentence is, "Why not?", then this blog entry is for you.

Let's clear up a few misconceptions.  Remember, I'm doing this to help you.

Misconception Number 1:  The Internet Is Private

Diaries: they're completely private (unless you have a younger sibling.)

Okay, please understand that this isn't a matter of opinion.  The FACT is that the internet is public, no matter how many security measures you take to hide what you're publishing.

Publishing.  Like, think about that word for a second.  You are publishing your opinions, feelings, favorite quotes, photos.  You are not writing them in a personal journal and stuffing it under your bed.   You're releasing your words and images into the realm of cyberspace, where they will exist until dolphins and/or fire ants take over the universe, look at all of our stuff on the internet before they destroy it, laugh, and create their own version of social media (where each fire ant would have 10,000,000,000 friends).

Fireant Google+

For every human being you allow to see your Facebook status or blog, that's one more person who interprets what you mean by what you write.   Saying the internet is public isn't just saying that every Tom, Dick, and Harry (and people of other names as well) can access the site on which you're publishing these things.  It's saying in ADDITION to that, your network of cyber friends who can access your page can allow others to see it as well.  How does this work?  Here is a hypothetical example of this extremely complicated concept:

Me: Hey, Harry, are you friend with Tom on Facebook?  He totally blocked me.
Harry: Yes.  Want to see his page?
Me: I'd love to!  Wow, look at all of those scathing things he said about me.  Tom's a total dick.
Dick: What?

Misconception Number 2:  Your Need For Privacy Is The Most Important Thing On The Internet

Hello, would you like to know all my feelings?

Like most U.S. senators, the internet has no feelings, no consciousness,  nor does it have any morals.   So the mere fact that you desire a private place to publish your opinions does not mean you are entitled to that in cyberspace.   If you'd like to write a Facebook status about how much you hate your job, be prepared that you'll deal with the repercussions of that (hint: it will not be a promotion).   You can choose to be upset that Someone Sold You Out, but let's keep circling back to Misconception Number 1.  It's no one else's fault that you chose to publicly announce something that got you into trouble.

Misconception Number 3: Prospective Employers Do Not Facebook-Stalk Applicants

Human (not dolphin) bosses will see your Facebook page

Your future boss is going to see your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or blog. The end.  It doesn't matter if you think it's unfair.  It happens.  Accept this and set yourself up for success, get upset and scream how ridiculous it is and never get hired (and wonder why).  Your choice!

Misconception Number 4: Not Posting Every Feeling About Everything Ever Stifles Your Creativity, Makes You Lesser Of A Human Being, and Goes Against The First Amendment

Post happy things!

I want to see people's creativity.  I love the ease of which it is to stay in touch with old friends. I love looking at photography and fine art, listening to music, watching videos that people I know create.  I love hearing about someone's great day.  I empathize with people who announce tragic news about loved ones, should they choose to do so on the internet.  It's a great tool to keep up with friends to know who's getting married, who had a kid, who got a new dog, who was promoted, whose cancer is in remission.  Those are things you'd mention to people in conversation, especially to your friends and family.  

But the topics you are too nervous about to discuss with family, friends, coworkers, and bosses?  Those aren't for the internet.  Leave them off of Facebook.  It has zero to do with you as a person.  Just because it's a bad idea to publish how much you hate your coworker (no matter how sly you think you're being), doesn't mean that your feelings about the topic are invalid.  It just means you're showing social tact.     

Now that these misconceptions are cleared up, here are some tips to help you stay on the right course or, if you've noticed you've fallen into some of the ruts I've just mentioned, how to get back on track.

1) If you wouldn't say it in a job interview, don't put it on the internet

Need I say more?

    Let's look at it in context.

    Interviewer: Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a coworker
    You:  She was totally judgmental and I wish she'd just quit already!

    Interviewer: Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a coworker
    You:  Ugh, she is so awful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Interviewer: I don't think that is an appropriate way to answer that question

    Interviewer: Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a coworker
    You: It's just….whatever…never mind….
    Interviewer:  Could you please elaborate?
    You: No, I don't want to talk about it on here.

Would you ever say any of those things in job interviews?  God, I hope your answer was NO.  So don't put those kinds of things on Facebook.  

2) Posting negative feelings about: current/former/prospective workplaces and coworkers makes you look like a jerk.

Tell 'em, George!

I'm not going to sugarcoat it.  It's not to say you are really a jerk, but you sure do look like one on the internet if you trash talk a facility just because they didn't give you an interview.  If you had a rough time at one of your jobs or internships, and you decide to make a big scene about it on the internet….you look like a jerk.  

Roll your eyes, tell me I'm old-fashioned, tell me that it's not fair that you are being persecuted for your right to feel, think, and express whatever you want to.  Good news is, you DO have the right to express your opinions on Facebook.  You won't be arrested for it, and you won't get a job offer.

There are plenty of people who have dealt with major coworker conflict, had fallings-out with their bosses, left their job disgruntled, or were majorly disappointed in not landing a job.  In fact, I'd say the vast majority of people have dealt with most or all of those things.  And yet, they do not all vent on Facebook.  They keep it classy.  What does that show?  Maturity, both socially and emotionally.

Let's take a quiz.  Who would you rather work with?

Person A

"Hey you, how's it going?  Hey listen, I wanted to talk to you about something you said to me the other day.  It sort of hurt my feelings.  Can we talk about it privately?"

"Man, I didn't get the job I really wanted.  I felt like I was really well-qualified for it too.  I even think they made a mistake not hiring me.  So I'm really bummed, but I just have to keep applying at other places.  The more professionally and optimistically I deal with this crappy news, the better the outcome will be for me."

Person B

"Hey, jerk.  Want to know how I felt about that ridiculous crap you said to me?  Check my Facebook status.  Oh SORRYYYYYYYYYY you can't see it because I BLOCKED YOUR *(&%!"


Don't do something that makes you look like a jerk!

3) "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Look, if a rabbit can do it, so can you.

Had a god-awful day?  Sick of someone at work?  Frustrated that you can't catch a break?  Shut down your computer and go do something productive, or sit on your couch and get lost in Netflix, call your best friend (who is not a coworker) or family member and vent to them, eat donuts by the dozen.   If you have compulsive FacebookStatusItis, take a picture of what you're eating for dinner or something.  Just don't post your negative nonsense unless you really want to pay some hefty prices.

As always, let's bring this back around to the animals.  Does your immaturity on Facebook mean you won't take excellent care of the animals?  Not necessarily, but in some cases it can.  Regardless, it's the understanding that perception is reality.  If I'm  hiring a trainer, what qualities do I look for? 

1) Compassion

2) Social maturity
3) Fast learner
4) Honesty
5) Introspection
6) The ability to consume a lot of sugary foods in mere seconds*

Someone who loses their mind on the internet does not show social maturity.  They do not show compassion.  They may be compassionate people, but that's not what they're advertising in public.  If they're sweet in an interview or at work, then vile on the internet, that shows major two-facedness.   Is that someone you want to have around animals?  No.  

If you identify with this post and realize that you're a culprit of using Facebook as a sounding board, it's not too late for you.  Follow the tips provided and when it doubt, don't post it (unless it's a picture of a cat wearing human clothes).   It's okay to make mistakes,  just learn for the future.  And if you're angry and offended by what I've said, you should probably go get some chocolate, hug something cute, then revisit this blog in a calmer frame of mind.   And if you are using Facebook in the appropriate manner, such as stalking your ex boyfriend from eighth grade, good for you.  Keep it up.


* Okay, maybe that's not true.  I'd rather hire someone who CAN'T eat all my snacks.


  1. Hi there, Cat! Thanks for the great article. I run the marine mammal trainer website. Would you ever want to guest blog for each other?

  2. Hi Cat!
    I just wanted to let you know (via blog) that I was nominated for a Liebster Award for blogging, and in turn, I have nominated you! I love reading your blogs (as I'm sure your other fans do), so I hope you'll choose to participate :) The details can be found here:

    Hope you have a Merry Christmas!

  3. Hi Cat! I'm looking for advice if you have the time! I'm currently a student and hoping to go into a career not exactly in this industry but somewhat adjacent to it. I also would like to be more visibly vocal about the debate around housing animals under human care by sharing a "pro-cap" narrative that doesn't often get heard. Now I don't plan to get inappropriately emotional and I do plan on conducting myself responsibly. I also don't plan to make my identity a big part of anything I write, however I doubt I could ever keep my identity fully "hidden" or on the DL considering today's internet world. So I'm just planning on any repercussions from this experiment as though my full name was on everything I ever write or make. Now I'd also like to be real with this thing, as too much "fluff" is already used as argument material in the debate and tends to turn people off. While my views are generally based on the idea that improvement, rather than shutting facilities down or punishing them, is the ideal I can see how such discussion would be looked down upon in the community. I currently am involved with a couple of facilities but never reference info not already available to the public. So in all, would you consider being vocal online in the debate in this manner an ultimate deal breaker for your career? How much of a stigma would I have to deal with?