“Wish you all the luck though I know you don’t need it”

That’s how the last email I received, where yet another job offer was being rescinded, ended.

That’s how they usually end. My formerly prospective employers wish me well, are very sorry to inform me that their company does not sponsor visas and encourage me to be in touch if my status changes. They sound genuine and I appreciate their greetings. If I find a green card on the street I will hit them all up again.

Before I dive into how sad and frustrated I am at the challenge of securing a job in New York without a permanent visa, I want to make sure I check my privilege to the best of my ability. I’m Icelandic. I grew up healthy and happy in the Utopian North, with two parents, three siblings, free healthcare, peace, friends, love, support, and countless other things I do not take for granted. I share Casper the friendly ghost‘s complexion so I have never faced racial discrimination. I’m a man so I’m not paid less than equally qualified people of the other sex and nobody is trying to limit my access to vital health services. I have been so lucky and sheltered in my life that my gay card is basically worthless.

I’m aware that my struggle” needs quotation marks because it is actually not a struggle in the grand scheme of things. I have been hit with the fortunate stick and I can never even begin to understand the hardships millions of people face every day. But in this very specific sector of my life I do think my feelings are valid and I want to share with you how this process has been for me. So let me try to keep this clean, clear and concise.

This blog post is mostly meant fill in friends and family, but if a fellow foreign job seeker can relate to following word vomit, cyber high fives to you my friend. I really, really hope this will not read as “oh boo hoo you can’t live out your dreams, let us all take a moment to collectively weep for you, you entitled Millennial turdburger”, but more as a “huh, this immigration system might need some tweaking.”

Backstory
I knew going in, that it would be hard getting a job after graduation as a foreign national. I’m in communications, not exactly a field where human capital is scarce. Maybe I should have learned to code instead. I did not realize how hard this would actually be. I honestly thought “Hey I’m smart, I have a good resume, I work hard, I’ll make it happen. I’ll be the exception to the rule.”

Well…still working on it.

I moved to New York City in 2013 to pursue a master’s degree in Public Relations & Corporate Communication at NYU. I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life after pursuing a degree and career in law, mildly-to-spicedly (I assume that is a legit antonym) hating it from the get-go. It did teach me great skills, like attention to detail, work ethic and the practical advantages of knowing your rights – but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Not even for the next 30 minutes.

In PR I found the culmination of my interests, personal strengths and prior experiences. I found what I love to do – and I’m actually good at it. I worked in an entry level position at a firm back in Iceland alongside my studies and during breaks from school. I reveled in every single moment of it. I only left that job to pursue an internship as a part of my master’s program.

I interned at a mid-sized PR agency in Midtown and it was straight up amazing. I loved it there. I was initially only supposed to be there for three months but was invited to extend and ended up spending about nine months there. The internship was intensive and us interns were trusted to do actual work. Since I got to stay there for so long, I was writing press releases, contributing to brain storms, pitching media, and securing placements only a few weeks in. The experience was invaluable to me and the positive environment and feedback was overwhelming. My colleagues were some of the best people I have ever had the good fortune to share oxygen with. I am ambitious about my writing so it was very fulfilling to get to write a lot. I loved the back-and-forth with journalists and securing those target publication placements is a high I shan’t forget.

When I chose to extend, I had to start using up my 12-month work permit. At the time I thought I was being smart and responsible. I knew they really liked me and were happy with the quality of work I churned out. I loved working and wish I could have worked more. My supervisor sometimes had to kick me out so I wouldn’t go over my hours (student work permits only allow for certain amount of hours per week while you are still in school). So I figured if I stayed on for longer and really proved myself and the value I brought in that was specific to me, I was increasing the probability of them hiring me. Using up a little portion of my work-permit would be a worthwhile investment.

A few weeks into the extended internship I mustered up the courage to open the visa sponsorship conversation. The HR person was basically my best friend in the office (not in sad “friends with the lunch lady” way, but in a “she’s just so cool” way) and an avid supporter of mine so I knew she would hear me out. She said right off the bat that it would be long shot since the agency had never had a foreign person on staff before, the process was unfamiliar to them and I was actually the first foreign intern. So I kept my hopes on the lower end of the spectrum but asked for the issue to be raised. It took over two months to get any real feedback on the issue.

I think it is largely thanks to the support of my colleagues and superiors at the office, that the decision makers actually green-lighted me. Nothing was official, but they were really willing to take me on. The biggest hurdle had been passed. The rest was semantics and paperwork. I was ecstatic. I could now focus on finishing my thesis, enjoy the time with my family and friends who came to celebrate my graduation and move into a new apartment (my rent was hiked, student loans are great and all but they are no match for New York rent prices). The day after graduation I received an email which said that after deliberating with experts, the agency had decided against taking me on. They encouraged me to apply for another internship or an entry level position for the remainder of my work permit, none of which were available at the time.

They did end up hiring two of my former fellow interns, bright, young people with great promise. They were about 5 years my junior, fresh out of college with less work experience and technically less qualified. But they were citizens of the US of A and that’s where they had me beat. I was happy for them but at the same time upset for myself which made for a weird time, one I’m not particularly proud of. There are moments when you are really salty and upset with everything and everyone, but thankfully you snap out of it and stop feeling sorry for yourself, remembering some people actually have real problems.

But I was devastated at that moment. Everyone in the office had been rooting for me, encouraging me and I let myself be too comfortable before I actually had it in the bag. Everyone was so sure I would make it through. Everyone except the people who actually made the decision. So there I was, fresh out of my masters with no job lined up. Exactly what I was not going to let happen to me. Oh well, that’s life. Then began the application game.

Applying, interviewing and reviling the cover letter
After licking my wounds and pouting in front of the mirror for a hot minute, I had to get grip. I had no income, very limited funds and zero interviews lined up. I started applying to everyone and their mother’s. I updated my resume and I wrote so many cover letters. Can the cover letter just please die and take it’s place in museums next to dinosaur skeletons and paintings nobody dares to admit are just kind of bad? Pretty please? At this point I’d rather be up for solving a math problem. And I hate math. Math is the worst.

But I hit up both in-house positions and agencies. The big agencies/companies (“because they can afford sponsoring visas“), mid-sized agencies/companies (“because they are the ones that need to diversify to grow“), small agencies/companies/start-ups (“because they really need the talent and visas don’t scare them away“).

Oh yes, everyone around you knows what type of companies you should be applying to and they know why. They tell you all the time, you are just not doing it right.

“Ok but have you tried…” – I will hear you out because I’m desperate, and I know you are trying to help, but I’m pretty sure I gave it a go by now. After hundreds of applications and dozens of interviews I’ve learned a few things. Like how to be sassy.

  1. The big agencies/companies have their own application systems online where they ask you about your visa situation. They have countless applicants and I suspect they don’t even read your resume if you have indicated that you don’t have permanent resident status.
    1. A few of my American friends from school had started working for one of the big agencies and put me in touch with their recruiting manager. She was very nice, liked my resume and told me to apply online and to let her know when I had completed my application. I completed the application and I let her know. She asked me if I was sure because she couldn’t see my application in the system. Then she asked me if I needed a visa, and when I said yes she said something along the lines of “oh ok, yeah those don’t go through the system. I’m sorry, we don’t sponsor at this level”. I never heard from any of the other big agencies I applied to either. Not saying they should have responded, but I was qualified for the positions I applied for.

  2. The mid-sized agencies/companies still have enough applicants so they don’t really want to sponsor your visa because they have other options.
  3. The small agencies/companies/start-ups seemingly do not to have the resources.

So that kind of sucks. The application process became harder to tackle and it started to slowly wear me down.

That damn “visa issue”
I learned rather quickly the visa is always an issue. I could just see it in the interviewer’s face that he or she had mentally thrown my resume in the trash as soon as it came up. It was just a matter of when it came up. Whether it came up in the first phone interview, the first in-person interview, the final interview or when it came time to draw up the paperwork. Thus far, it has always been a deal-breaker. It is very disheartening and somedays I sit in front of my computer for hours, trying to will myself to send out more applications. I have had to persuade myself that this pursuit of mine is not futile, that there is an employer out there for me. That is what has kept me going. I re-strategized and kept on.

I learned to not lead with the “visa issue”. My best chance is to impress a company so they like me enough to offer me a position. I have to be better than any American candidate. I do all that I can to make that happen. I research the companies I interview with thoroughly. I research the interviewers. I am ambitious about every single writing test and I make sure to ask thoughtful and insightful questions. These things may sound very obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people do a terrible job representing our generation in job interviews. When I get offered a job, I start the visa conversation if it has not been brought up yet and I pray to all the holy men up there that this might be the one – this might be the company who will give me that chance I so desperately want.

I am still waiting to connect with that elusive employer. But I am having better luck this way. I understand that my approach might seem problematic, but I have arrived at it out of need. I have been conflicted about not being more upfront about the visa, I feel bad for wasting people’s time. If they are not the slightest bit open to the possibility of sponsoring a visa, we are both wasting our time. But I also want the chance to be heard. To be evaluated on my own merit. To not be out of the running by default.

So through trial and error, my tactic has been to be very clear about where I am from, that I moved to the US to pursue a master’s degree in PR and that I am currently looking for a permanent position. That way my interviewers have the facts and the ability to deduct that I do not have a permanent visa, yet. But this way they do give me the time of day and I can’t tell you how much that means when so many shut their doors in your face before you can even introduce yourself.

Progress report
I have been offered a total of five positions since I graduated last May. Every one of those offers has been rescinded after the “visa issue” came up. I feel fortunate to have been offered those positions, but it is heartbreaking to be that close to achieving your goal and have it vanish in front of your eyes like a Paula Deen endorsement deal (girl is whack). I do have a part-time consulting internship that allows me to maintain my legal status. But I need a permanent job.

I understand why the “visa issue” is daunting to most. There is a cost associated with it, some effort and risk. I totally get that. I totally get that you can probably hire an an American to do the job and he or she does not come with that baggage.

But I also think there is great value in diversifying your employee pool:

  • You get a different perspective thrown in the mix that can be extremely important.
    • Going off of my own experience, I often felt I had a completely different view on brand strategies, creative ideas and communication tactics. After spending a short time listening and learning, I voiced my opinions and they were appreciated. Cross-cultural insights can provide opportunities.
  • Appealing to, and working with, international clients is not in everyone’s wheelhouse.
    • For example, I’ve come across so many “experts” on Europe and how things work over there. I can tell you that their level of expertise on Europe is only rivaled by my expertise on brain surgery. There is a reason why foreign companies go to agencies and firms that have international staff that can relate and understand their needs. There is a difference in how people think, what they value and prioritize in different parts of the world.
  • You get a level of devotion that you don’t necessarily get elsewhere.
    • Foreign employees are dependent on their employers and are willing to work their asses off to earn their stay. They are not going to jump ship when a slightly better offer presents itself or if they get bored. These are resourceful individuals who have moved across continents to improve their lives and entered a whole new marketplace and society. Speaking for myself, I would be so thankful to the company that would be willing to sponsor me that I would work tirelessly to surpass expectations to show them that investing in diverse talent is more than worth it.

These are only a few things that come to mind. I think employers are well aware of the benefits of hiring qualified, foreign professionals. The problem seems to be that with the current immigration system, employers don’t want to go through the hassle of taking these individuals on. So these individuals are eventually forced to leave.

Don’t get me wrong. I will be very sad, but ultimately fine, if I am forced to go back home or to some country in Europe. But I don’t want to leave. My life is here now. The vast majority of my professional network is here. I have great friends here. I’m in love for the first time in my life here. Even though I have been forced to stay with (the kindest, most supportive) friends for almost three months and I depend on my parents for encouragement and help to feed myself – I won’t give up just yet. I can’t. These past months can’t have been for nothing.

So for all the friends who worry about what I’m still doing over here, and my dear parents who kindly ask if “it’s not time to look at other options” I just want to say I am extremely grateful for you and also this:

Thank you for your support and patience. I’m actually fine. It sucks depending on other people for a roof over your head and for help feeding yourself. It sucks yearning for long days at the office when you don’t have one to go to. It sucks not knowing what your life looks like in two weeks time. But I’m happy, I’m healthy and I still have hope.

Bear with me, I’ll send you appropriately emotional snapchats when I have any news to share. And maybe I need that luck, even though you think I don’t need it. I’ll take all the luck I can get.

Your friend, son and aspiring Annie-understudy,

Stefan Sigurdsson
(my signature is hyperlinked to my LinkedIn profile, see what I did there)

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Meta-blog

meta-blog

Photocredit: Wordplay

This a blog about a blogging, bear with me.

For those of you new to my blog, it started out as a class requirement in my Social Media Objectives class in my graduate program in Public Relations at NYU. This is the last class required post and the focus this week is about the concept of blogging, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I must say I really rather enjoy blogging like this. Especially when the topic is of my own choosing, we had a couple of those, including the first one and I think that is where I found my voice. I do think I write in a very selfish manner, I’m writing in a way that I would find amusing and hopefully somewhat informative. I do not take myself too seriously and I am fully aware that there are people out there that do, and they are really good at it. They write in depth articles about various topics for the betterment of all us. For me, I like it to be more conversational and to mix up with something entertaining.

In some of the required posts I struggled. I struggled to relate to the subject material, I struggled to make it relate to my “style” or whatever you might call it. But the challenging post were often the ones I learned the most from.

Over all, I’m happy with my progress. One of my first posts in particular is really important to me. Even my PR professional dad, who reads everything I write with a magnifying class and a red marker, told me how much I liked it. That’s very neat – since he unabashedly corrects my grammar on Facebook and stuff like that – my friends’ grammar too. It’s the best.

Mind you, this is not my first attempt at blogging. I blogged as a teenager, that was without a doubt the worst. I am so very glad I had the good sense to close them (yes I had more than one) off to the universe before I forgot the passwords. I have also taken a couple of stabs at Tumblr, currently working on my third blog, but it’s more about sharing visually stimulating things rather than original thoughts. I’m almost over it. Again.

This is the first blog I’m pretty confident I can leave up and not be utterly mortified when someone I know stumbles upon it. I’m proud of the work I put into my blog posts. I feel good about offering my take on things that are going on around us everyday. If somebody else likes it, that’s just a cherry on the top of a magnificent sundae of self expression. And, I actually learned a lot, stuff I didn’t even know I didn’t know – you know? I’m much more aware of copyright, the importance of correct use of media in digital writing, search engine optimization (FINALLY – it’s a phrase I’ve heard everyone through around for a year and always just pretended to understand), and many other things.

We were fortunate enough to have a very ambitious, fresh professor, with the kind of passion that really rubbed off on you. A welcome relief to the stereotypical professor, middle-aged white guy who just can’t teach the same course one more time. He just can’t.

I am a very social person and have no problem being the center of attention in a group I am really comfortable with. But when I’m not comfortable, I hold back. In my classes, I let others do the talking. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because I like to listen, and much like many of my fellow non-native English speakers, I’m better at putting my thoughts down in writing than in speech. I’m getting better at speaking though, don’t worry.

This blogs really gives me an opportunity to express myself on my terms, on stuff that matters. I think it’s really healthy to collect your thoughts every once in a while and share them with the world, in the way you see fit.

So I’m going to keep it up. I might not update every week, but you haven’t seen the last of me yet.

Bæ.

Ps. I distinctly remember in my first post that I was going to try to squeeze Beyoncé into as many of my posts as possible. I seem to have failed but I will leave you with this hilarious sketch from the most recent episode of SNL.

The Importance of Self(ie)

instagramvsreallife

Are you sure though? Photocredit: neonfresh.com

I read a blog post by a good friend of mine a couple of days ago and it really got me thinking. Which is good since I spend a lot of my time not thinking.

In the post he spoke about how we present ourselves today. Most of us have some sort of social media account, several if we’re being honest, and we tend to them regularly with updates from our lives for the “benefit” of our friends, family and even strangers.

What we choose to share is, more often than not, well thought out; carefully taken selfies at just the right angle and with perfect lense flare, that good thing or great job we did. We share our accomplishments, our proudest moments. Oh and our followers can enjoy all of this in the beautiful hue of one of the several filters we can choose from, because why not.

There is no way we are sharing those bad hair day photos, those not-so-great grades or our other shortcomings. Hell no. We are in control of how we want to be perceived, so we put forth this persona – a heightened sense of self.

A friend told me about an Instagram account she came accross the other day (as you do). It was just your typical pretty girl Instagram account – filled with selfies, champagne toasts and designer couture. My favorite was the “new necklace but really just a close up of my cleavage” one. But her tagline was what stood out. She was honest. Her tagline was “This is how I want you to think my life is like”. SLOW CLAP. Now that’s interesting, that’s real. I like her. She’s gets it.

But what does that mean for the rest of our popularly-unpopular generation? Is this actually going to make us be the better version of ourselves that we present to the world? Or is it just going to make us more crazy and less productive with some internal struggle between our real selves and our “official” selves?

There is a certain danger of all of us losing the grasp on what is real and what is filtered, processed – make believe. We could be missing out on our own lives, as ridiculous as that sounds, prioritizing sharing above experiencing. You know what I’m talking about, taking selfies at the historical landmarks and monuments instead of just enjoying the view, recording your favorite song on your phone while you’re at a concert instead of just listening, dirtying up half your porcelain to display the cake you just made on Instagram instead of just plowing down on a slice like there is no tomorrow. We’ve all been there to some extent.

When you think about it, it’s just so…dumb. It’s dumb.

I don’t know how we’ll fare as a generation. We’ve gotten our fair share of criticism recently, some of it legitimate, some not. We’ve got our strengths and weaknesses just like any other generation and despite contrary belief, we did not arrive at this reality on our own.

Well we might as well get a passive-aggressive laugh out of this.

Man I hope we figure this out.

Bæ.

It pays to be social.

Many nonprofit organizations and practitioners rely on funding from outside sources in the form of donations. To keep their daily operations running and continue doing their good work, these organizations have to reach as many people, and donors, as they possibly can.

Thankfully for today’s nonprofits they have a plethora of ways to reach their audience and can showcase their work, and more importantly the effect and societal benefits their work is reaping. Many nonprofits actively share stories, experiences and accomplishments with their varyingly large audiences through websites, email and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on.

I came across a study from the Case Foundation and Social Media for Nonprofits, based on a survey of almost 500 nonprofits which had some interesting insights, beginning with this one:

Email-Website

Photocredit: Case Foundation

So you see that social media isn’t King quite yet in all regard. Never underestimate the power of a properly written email.

The study went on to reveal that just about half the respondents had one or less staffers overseeing their social media efforts, which is not strange since lack of manpower is still the biggest challenge facing nonprofits. But the study indicated that most nonprofits are allocating more personnel to their efforts than before. The rise is slow, but steady.

When looking at how nonprofits actually used social media, this was a prominent result:

Networking-info

Photocredit: Case Foundation

Ahh, stings a bit. 74% is a high percentage of self-centered nonprofits. These nonprofits need to find a balance between promoting themselves and actually posting issue-centric content that establishes their thought leadership in their area of focus and gets people to engage with them – to care.

Thankfully a lot of them seem to be on the right track already.

The survey also shows that there is room for improvement regarding how the nonprofits surveyed measure their reach and engagement. Facebook Insights was the most popular social measurement toll/metric with about 70% of the respondents. There are specifically designed apps and software out there, many of them free, that enable you to better evaluate your online activities such as HootSuite, Klout and Social Mention. It seems that many nonprofits have yet to discover the benefits of advanced social media monitoring. So, get on that you guys!

I shan’t make this longer for now, but if you, dear reader, one of thousands I presume, are involved with a nonprofit you might want to make sure that your organization is getting everything it can from its social media. I’ll leave you with these informative tips but encourage you to dig deeper and come up with a solid social media strategy to maximize your organization’s potential.

Tips

Photocredit: Case Foundation

Bæ.

Ps. Take a look at these adorable future nonprofit leaders. Their parents should travel the world and just teach and preach.

The Tonight Show with Jimmy “Viral” Fallon

As you should all know, Jimmy Fallon is the new host of the Tonight Show. He took over from Jay Leno on February 17th and moved the show to New York City, much to the dismay of Californians. New Yorkers couldn’t be more excited about it. It’s a fresh start for the next chapter in the Tonight Show’s long legacy and might even give Jimmy a little heads up to start his new job in a familiar surroundings, his home turf.

I can’t imagine the pressure he was facing when he took over. He has to please everyone. He has to appeal to the younger generations, I mean, that’s the reason Jay is retiring, but he still has to retain the older audiences that religiously  watch the show every night. So you have to keep the old, fuse it with the new and make it all work somehow.

By golly, I think he got it! He’s testing well with practically every demographic. He has been very respectful in his approach and he seems very sincerely determined to do the best job he can possibly do. He wants to make everyone happy, be sure to watch his first opening monologue.

But there is more. He’s branching out. He know how to make social media work for him. He’s been cranking out a viral video every week, each better than the last. Some people seem to be a bit miffed by it, I’m going out on a limb here but I think those people belong the generation above mine. Because I LOVE all these awesome videos and I think it’s a really smart move.

I, and probably a lot of people from my generation (the generation everyone loves to hate) don’t watch television in the traditional sense. We watch online, we read online, we get all of our news online, regardless of whether it’s entertainment or current affairs. So what Jimmy is doing is what he needs to be doing. His audience is mixed of course, but a majority of it is very active online and he need to be online if he wants to communicate with that audience.

If my words are not swaying you, I’m betting these videos will. I dare you not to laugh, smile or react accordingly.

And since WordPress does not want me let me embed more videos, I’m going to hyperlink them here below.

Kevin Bacon’s Footloose Entrance (Sounds cool, looks even cooler)

Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel & The Roots Sing “Let It Go” from “Frozen” (straight up wonderful)

Jump on the Jimmy bandwagon if you haven’t already. You know you want to.

Bæ.

 

Crisis! Crisis! Crisis!

Got you! Wow I pranked you good!

Anyway, what has prompted me to write about crisis management (other than it being this week’s class requirement) is that I find it so interesting that so many people from my class, including myself, are so excited about it.

CM Word Bubble

Crisis Management Word Bubble. Photocredit: ActivePR

The reason I find it interesting is that no one actually wants to be in the center of a crisis. It’s not really opportune. It can be hectic, time consuming, delicate, saddening, sleep depriving, cry inducing – basically the worst.  But on the other hand, for people studying to become highly qualified PR professionals, it could provide the challenge of a lifetime. It can be a true test of all your accumulated knowledge and skills.

I think that is kind of the dream, at least for me. To be instrumental in averting a huge crisis within a notable company, enabling me to rise through the ranks from a low-level intern or other type of nameless grunt, to the top of the PR industry stratosphere. Don’t shake your head, you have your weird professional fantasies too. I know you watch Scandal, you have been trying to find the perfect white coat – we all have.

Scandal’s protagonist, Olivia Pope, can make the best out of the worst situations. Her exaggerated battleground is thankfully something most of us don’t have to deal with (if you are Command/B-613, I mean no disrespect and value my life. If you don’t get this reference, you need to get your life in order). Additionally, and it pains me to say this, but her methods are nothing to aspire to. She lies, manipulates, covers up and kisses married Presidents. Most her actions are somehow justifiable, the greater good and all that jazz, but still – you would never get away with the stuff she pulls anyway. Her Daily Affirmation is something I can get on board with though.

The key to good crisis management, or so I have been lead to believe, comes down to research and preparation. Good PR teams have prepared for a countless number of crises that might arise and have a strategic plan in place for each possible scenario, whether it is natural disaster, CEO misconduct or murder at the Christmas party. These plans include detailed instructions on what course of action should be taken, when they should be taken, who is in charge of what and how the situations is best dealt withYou hope you’re never going to have to use them, you actively try to prevent it, but you have to be ready for the worst.

This can save time, energy, unnecessary frustration and keep your sanity in check for years to come. Now bear in mind that these plans are no guaranteed way out of sticky situation. It’s just a guideline on what you can do to right your wrongs. This is no magic whisker that to spin something good out of a bad situation. You need to be honest (honesty is key, always and forever), take responsibility where it is due, be forthright about how you will rectify the situation and explain how you intend to redeem yourself.

Crisis management done right can actually strengthen a company or organization’s image. Crisis management done wrong could mean the end for a company, organization and all it’s Scandal watching employees.

It better be handled.

Bæ.

 

Being ethical: Go all in or go home

Since last week I wrote about how social media is changing the practice of PR I feel like this week I want to share some personal thoughts about ethics and social media.

Ethics is of course a challenging concept, subjective to a certain extent, but I think most of us agree on what constitutes ethical behavior and what does not.

Many philosophers and academics have provided us with a definition of ethics, but I’m going to share with you the one Google provided me with (I owe my life to Google, sue me):

“moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior”

Sounds simple enough, clear and to the point. In my brief research I also came across several guidelines for ethical behavior on social media. So why is it then, that so many individuals, organizations and other entities, managed by individuals, have such a hard time staying inside the bounds that the rest of us deem ethical? I don’t know, do you? Please share your thoughts below if you’re on a roll.

If I would ever find myself in the position of doing social media on behalf of a company (yes, you may hire me), I would not take it lightly. I would use my brain and follow my gut. If something doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t.

Several things come to mind when I think about unethical behavior on social media which you should steer clear of. For example, don’t badmouth a competitor, don’t badmouth anyone for that matter. Don’t spread or share rumors, half-truths or unconfirmed news. Be aware that humor often translates badly into social media, especially dark or cynical humor – it might very well get you fired. Never, ever, lie or try to cover something up. Don’t ever underestimate the intelligence of your audience. (The last two things also apply in life in general).

I’m not going to delve into the whole debate about privacy and who can see your information and use that information for marketing purposes – that whole shebang. I kind of don’t mind personalized marketing based on my browser history. I value my privacy online highly but I also recognize that what I post online is pretty much public knowledge, depending how you look at it. (Contrary to popular belief, I try to minimize embarrassing posts on social media, but I can see why you would be confused).

To reiterate, treat social media just as you would other human interaction, but bear in mind that you are talking to a much larger audience. Follow your instincts, don’t take unnecessary risks and bounce your ideas off your colleagues. Be more creative, less offensive.

Forbes wrote a pretty good piece on social media and ethics back in 2011, I would recommend it to a friend.

Follow your gut, if that doesn’t work – consult a gastroenterologist or switch professions.

Bæ.