Facebook password: can an employer ask for yours?

How far would you go to secure your dream job? Or in this economy, any job? What if your potential employer asked for your Facebook password in order for you to advance in the interview process? It seems ridiculous, but unfortunately an alarming number of cases like this are surfacing.

Facebook seems to have finally caught wind of the situation, and has threatened to sue employers who ask job applicants for passwords to their accounts. On Friday, March 23, Facebook’s chief privacy officer released a statement saying, “We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action. Sharing a Facebook password or asking for someone else’s password violates Facebook’s user agreement. An employer who requests such information may face unanticipated legal liability.”

Facebook warned that if personal information gathered from a Facebook page negatively affects an employer’s decision, the company might be liable for discrimination. Facebook didn’t, however, state any specific legal actions it would take.

And that’s probably because asking for a job applicant’s Facebook password is not actually illegal. Typically, interviewers are only prohibited from asking questions that are discriminatory in nature.

So what can and can’t employers ask in interviews? And what are you supposed to do if you are caught being pressured to answer an illegal question? Weidert’s PR team did its own investigation into Wisconsin’s Fair Hiring laws—for all of you who are just entering or re-entering the job market.

Arrest Records

It is illegal for an employer in Wisconsin to inquire about past arrest records, but it allows for consideration of a current arrest. This basically means that employers can ask about any arrest that is unresolved, but if it is in the past, they should leave it there.

Children

It is unlawful for an employer to ask about the number of children you have, their ages, your childcare situation or your pregnancy status. These questions are considered to be discriminatory against women and are usually only asked to gauge potential tardiness and absenteeism.

Credit Records

It is illegal for an employer to seek credit reports or a history of credit. Inquiries of this nature are irrelevant to job performance and are considered to be discriminatory to minorities.

Family Members at the Company

It is illegal for an employer to ask if you have friends or family working for their company. Although they may have policies against it that are legal, they can not make these inquiries during the interview, as they usually have a negative impact on women more than men.

Honesty Tests

It is never legal to require an applicant to take a polygraph test as a condition of employment. Any test taken must be voluntary and have no impact on the hiring decision.

Salary

While it’s lawful to ask a person what their lowest acceptable salary is, it is illegal to pay a woman less than a man performing the same job functions.

So, although it may be legal as of right now for an employer to ask for your Facebook password, remember that they can’t base their decision on what they see. Either way, remember that you have the right to say no.

Social media is changing the way journalists work

According to Managing Media Work by Mark Deuze, social media is changing the way that reporters do their work. In chapter 22, “Life is a pitch”, the author makes it evident that journalists must do everything in their power to stay ahead of the competition. Nick Penzenstadler of the Appleton Post Crescent agrees, and he leverages all types of social media–and the web– to uncover stories that no one else is covering. In his session, Get the Dirt: Harnessing Search Functions in the Web to Get the Story, at UW Oshkosh’s NEWSPA conference, Penzenstadler showed students how to get information from sites that they may have never heard of.

Although one of the key features of new media lives, according to the chapter mentioned above is “long hours”, Penznstadler showed the audience how he can answer 20 in depth, personal questions about basically anybody in under 30 minutes– just by using what’s readily available on he Internet. I’m not going to lie, the amount of information that he discovered about Dr. Ann Schultz, Oshkosh West principal, was slightly creepy.

Mashable recently wrote about the trend of journalists using social media during their average work days. The article revealed that the top three reasons why they do this is to find leads, notice trends and find sources. Penzenstadler said that he mainly uses social media to find sources. He said that Facebook is one of his greatest tools when doing this, since most people list their family members right on their profile, and many list their phone numbers.

Another interesting thing that social media does for journalists is that it helps them bypass government regulations when writing an article. Penzenstadler talked about this when he wrote an article about deer hunting and he needed sources who had gotten injured while hunting. He said that the DNR told him about a minor who had shot himself in the leg while hunting, but they would not give him his name or contact information because he was under 18 years old. Penzenstadler showed that he simply used sites like Facebook and Twitter to quickly find the teen’s contact information and address.

There is no doubt that social media is changing the way that things work. Penzenstadler reminded everyone at the session to monitor what they put online, as everything can be accessible with the right tools.

How Soon is Too Soon to Apply?

As first semester is winding down, all that seems to be on my mind lately is when to start applying for REAL jobs. The thought beginning the application process seems quite daunting.

We are all in the same boat. We all want to be ahead of the game and I’m sure we would all like to secure a job before graduation. So that got me thinking… When IS the right time to apply for jobs? Should you start a whole semester early, or wait until a month before your graduation date?

I’ve asked many professionals about this and the responses are always mixed. Some say that you should apply as soon as possible, while some say that you should begin to apply after you graduate. Through the foggy opinions, a few sound words of advice stuck out to me. I hope they help you if you are graduating soon!

If you are planning on graduating in May…

Make a target list of companies.  Look and see what jobs are open around you and start keeping your eye on those companies. If a job happens to be open now, apply for it! Sometimes the hiring process can takes months to complete and there’s no sense missing out on a dream opportunity.

Start attending networking events in your field. If you are a PR major, locate your closest Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter and get to know professionals. The more relationships you have, the better your chances will be of being referred to for a job. If you are in marketing, look for a Sales and Marketing Professionals (SMP) group in your area. For journalism, consider contacting someone at your nearest Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ).

Define your dream job. If you have your heart set on a certain company and they don’t have any jobs open currently, start perusing them. They may have something open in time for when you graduate. The best thing to do first is to email someone from the department you are interested and introduce yourself. Always send a resume, too! Once they respond, see if you could set up a job shadow or an informational interview. This helps get your foot in the door, even if you aren’t interviewing for a job there. After the job shadow, they will have a more personal relationship with you and, chances are, you will be at the top of their list when a job opens up.

Consider your salary requirements. This is often something that companies want to know before they hire someone. Since you have a few months before you graduate, start researching average salaries in your area so that you know what you’re worth. Remember—it’s ok to negotiate! Just don’ t get too crazy.

In my opinion, it never hurts to apply for a job. Even if they decide that they don’t want to wait a few months for you, at least you made a new connection! To all of my readers, have you started applying for jobs yet?

UWO PRSSA grips success at 2011 National Conference

On Tuesday, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) returned home from the society’s national conference that was held in Orlando, Fla. I am the president of the organization and attended the conference along with eight other students.

We started off our week in Orlando by giving a Chapter Development Session to about 400 PRSSA students from across the country. We were selected as one of only eight chapters in the nation to do so at the 2011 conference. Our challenge was to select a topic that we were considered “experts” on and to create a presentation on the topic that would inspire conversation among session attendees.

As a group, we decided to create a presentation based on the success that our chapter has had in the past with PRSSA’s various national competitions. For the past 17 years, UW Oshkosh PRSSA has either received a 1st, 2nd, 3rd place or honorable mention in the National Organ Donor Awareness Campaign (NODAC) competition and had consistently received top titles over the years in the National Bateman Case Study Completion. We wanted our presentation to help other small chapters who are currently competing in these competitions. A video of our presentation will soon be available online. Keep checking our blog for a link!

Traditionally, the last night of conference is the Awards Dinner. This is something that we always look forward to. We were up for several awards this year, including the Tehan award for best developing chapter as well as our placing in last year’s NODAC competition. For NODAC 2011, UWO PRSSA chose to plan an event based on the hit TV show “Minute to Win It”. The campaign was called “Minute to Give It” and was designed to encourage people to tell their families about their decision to be an organ donor. The tagline “Minute to Give It: It only takes a minute to tell your family your wishes” was used throughout the campaign. We also hosted a nightlong event on campus that resembled the NBC game show. During the awards dinner, we were awarded 2nd place in the nation for our campaign, keeping our winning streak for the past 17 years alive.

This year, UWO PRSSA plans to compete in the Bateman competition as well as the NODAC competition. We are currently in the research stages for both campaigns and plan to start the implementation process during the spring semester.

How to work it at PRSSA National Conference

This post was originally written for internqueen.com. To view it on IQ.com, go here: http://www.internqueen.com/blog/2011/10/how-to-work-it-at-a-conference/ 
 

This week, I am so excited because I am leaving for the Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) National Conference on Thursday, October 13, 2011. If you are unaware, PRSSA is the largest pre-professional group for public relations students in the world. There are about 10,000 student members nationwide who belong to about 285 university chapters.

UWO PRSSA with PRSSA National President Nick Lucido at last year's conference in Washington, D.C.

My school, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, has a small chapter with about 25 members in it. This year, we have 10 students attending the conference that will be held in Orlando Fla. Before I leave, however, there are many things that I need to keep in mind. PRSSA National Conference is a great place to network, learn and grow as a pre-professional. Below are some tips that I learned after attending last year’s conference for those who are attending this year’s PRSSA conference or any other type of professional networking conference.

Make business cards. Even if you don’t have an internship or if you haven’t declared your major, it is still really important to make professional business cards and bring them with you. Make sure that they are generic. You don’t want to necessarily put your internship employer or current job on your business cards because you don’t want to brand yourself with a company that is considered temporary. My best advice is to put your name and basic contact info, along with your “title”, which in my case is “Public Relations Student”.

Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Connect with people on social media. One of the easiest things to do when you meet people at a conference is to get their name and twitter handle. That being said, make sure you have yours on your business cards! Staying in contact with people via Twitter and LinkedIn will undoubtedly help you when you are looking for jobs down the road.

Bring copies of your resume. This is often the thing that most people forget to do. Although you may never take your resume out of it’s folder, it is a good idea to bring it because you never know if you’ll meet someone who is hiring or may be hiring in the near future. This is especially important to remember if you are a senior who will soon be graduating. Typically, I bring 5 copies and assume that the hotel I am staying at will have a copy machine if I need it.

At the awards banquet on the last night

Travel light. The thing that shocked me the most out of the conferences that I attended last year was the lack of free time that was provided during the few days that I was there.  Typically conferences are 2 to 5 days long, and the days normally start at 8 a.m. and often don’t end until 5 p.m. So, you won’t have a lot of time to sift through a huge bag for an outfit and you definitely won’t have much time to repack everything on the last day. Because of this, I usually just bring a carryon-sized bag and a small backpack. That way, I can control the amount of clothing that I pack!

Have you attended a professional conference in the past? If so, do you have any other tips that you think are important to remember? Are any of you planning to attend PRSSA National conference? Leave a comment below: I would love to meet up sometime when I am there!

Want a job? Don’t do this on Facebook!

I came across this at work today and thought it was interesting!

Think that your Facebook is “yours” and that the information on it shouldn’t be used against you? Think again! Kashmir Hill, Forbes’ privacy blogger posted this chart, which was drawn from a survey of employers.

In the survey, 95% of employers said they have used social media to get additional information on job candidates. 95%! In PR, it’s probably more like 99.999999999999%, especially since social media is now expanding to include people like our grandparents. If my grandpa is on Facebook, you can guarantee your potential employer is.

I used to be really against the whole idea of employers using Facebook as a channel to weed out candidates. I thought that it was an unnecessary mix of my personal and professional life, considering that my pictures out at Molly Maguire’s last Saturday night have nothing to do with my behavior at work. My education in PR has changed this viewpoint.

Whether we like it or not, our social media sites are fair game for critiquing when we are applying for jobs. There is really nothing that we can do to change this. Making your page private may help, but keep in mind that you may know someone at the organization who has access to your page and would be willing to share it with a hiring manager. You just never know.

Consider cleaning up your page– and review the survey above to avoid making these mistakes!

My summer at EAA: What I learned after planning AirVenture 2011

When I was offered a public relations summer internship at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wis., I never thought that two months later I would be shaking hands with the governor, welcoming over 80 veterans home from an Old Glory Honor Flight, helping Sully Sullenberger (think Miracle on the Hudson) with a book signing, watching a one-off car be auctioned off for $400,000, listening to the stories of Apollo astronauts, speaking Spanish to foreign reporters or, well, flying through the hot summer air in a door-less helicopter. To put it lightly, my summer at EAA has been incredible.

For the past 59 years, the EAA has hosted the world’s largest aviation event, AirVenture, which draws on average about 500,000 people to my small college town. It gets pretty crazy here, especially since the size of the city during July is 66,000—only 13% the size of EAA’s event. Below are some of the things that I took away from what was the busiest, craziest, and most valuable summer of my life.

Attend every meeting you are invited to. As an intern, it can be a little bit scary to walk into a meeting without knowing anyone and without knowing what everyone is talking about. However, I can tell you that if I didn’t sit in on all of the meetings I had the opportunity to, I would have been even more lost. Even if you don’t think the meeting has anything to do with your role or position, I can guarantee that you will meet someone who can help you at a later date.

Ask a lot of questions. This is especially important when you are thrown into an industry that you know nothing about (like aviation!). I spent countless hours with my boss, who is also a private pilot, learning about aviation. Do I need to know how a plane flies to do my job? Probably not, but it does make things easier when you have some idea what is going on.

Know where things are. If you ever have the opportunity to plan an event that takes place outside, make sure that you know how to get around. At AirVenture, employees have to ride in golf carts to get around because the grounds are spread out over 1,500 acres. That’s intimidating if you are a newbie. Not to mention, anyone wearing a staff T-shirt was fair game to receive questions from attendees. If you are asked, “Where’s the ‘Sikorsky Innovations’ tent?”, first– know what Sikorsky Innovations is, second– know where it is located.

Make peace with the fact that things will go wrong. Yes, even after your two solid months of planning and stressing that everything is all set before the event, things will still completely fall apart. It’s not your fault. The reality is that, at any large event, things come up that you don’t expect. Usually, they are things that need to be dealt with or solved in a small amount of time. Practice ‘thinking on your toes’, and never let that skill fade.

Network with people. This one is on here mostly because I think interns should always be doing this. And really—you are at a huge event! There’s a ton of opportunity to meet interesting people who may help your career in the future.

Have fun! Of course, this is the most important thing to remember and the easiest thing to forget. Try not to let the day-to-day stress of the event take you away from enjoying all of your hard work. You deserve to take an hour to walk around and look at everything that you accomplished. It will go by so fast, so don’t forget to have fun during it!

I sincerely hope that all of you have the chance to take part in any type of event planning or coordination. I promise that it will be more rewarding than stressful, and you will walk away from it with an awesome portfolio.