The Dangers of Asking for Career Advice Online

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: May 20, 2015

Social Media: Answering All of Life's Questions

Never has one incident singularly highlighted the good, the bad, and the incredibly ugly components of living in the age of social media than a situation earlier this month regarding a young engineer, his two job offers, and his decision to ask the Internet to help him determine which one he should accept.

The young man, who has not been identified, posted a question to Quora -- the Q&A social media platform -- to help him decide between a job offer from the ride-sharing powerhouse Uber and Zenefits, an HR software startup. The man came up with compelling reasons to work for each company, such as strong management teams, Zenefits' passionate pursuit of him as a candidate, and believing strongly in Uber's product and mission. And while he thought he'd be a better fit for Zenefits, the one con he listed for that company was a lack of brand recognition.

"My biggest problem with Zenefits is that it isn't a buzzword like Uber," he writes. "Most people won't know what Zenefits is (or so I think). I think that this isn't as exciting a brand name to have on your resume when applying to the likes of Google."

It's a Trap!

Although it shouldn't be the end all be all, brand recognition is a perfectly legitimate concern for a young Silicon Valley employee. Listing that as a potential drawback on Zenefits' tally sheet is perfectly reasonable -- unless you're the CEO of Zenefits.

Parker Conrad, CEO of Zenefits and potentially the author's future boss, found the posting and was not pleased. In a post that has since been deleted, Conrad responded by saying "We really value people who 'get' what we do and who 'want' to work here, specifically. It's not for everyone, but there are enough ppl out there who do want to work here that we can afford to be selective." And with that, he publicly rescinded the man's job offer.

Then things started to get really crazy.

Many people online began publicly criticizing Conrad for being oversensitive and immature in publicly rescinding the job offer simply because the author was asking people for advice and being honest. That caused Conrad to edit his response to a toned down version. However, because Quora allows users to see the original version of edited comments, Conrad became even more of a target for trying to hide what he originally said. Finally he deleted the post, but not before taking a PR hit and being known as the CEO who can't take a little honest criticism. That, in turn, could effect his ability to attract top-notch employees and ultimately hurt the business.

Next, not to miss a golden PR opportunity, an Uber employee chimed in and urged the engineer to come work at his company where employees are valued.

Take the Good But Keep the Bad in Mind

Although messy and cringe-inducing, it's really a story that perfectly illustrates the times in which we live.

The engineer's decision to enlist help in weighing his options and making a pros and cons list is not unusual or unprecedented. However, the manner in which he did it -- essentially putting company names and personal information on the Internet and crowdsourcing an answer -- reflects the new normal. A normal with which many are clearly not yet comfortable. The engineer underestimated the Internet's reach and how putting himself out there could impact his hiring chances. Conrad forgot to count to 10 before posting an angry comment online, which is written in virtual ink and stays with us forever. And whether it's publicly mulling over competing job offers, letting others vote on the name of your unborn child, or livestreaming the contents of your fridge, this incident further drives home the fact that social media has and will continue to change the way we communicate and live our lives.

There is plenty of upside to the digital age, but the pitfalls can haunt you in a Google search forever. So before you take to the Internet, with personal decisions, make sure you're ready for the potential fallout.

Negotiate No Matter What

No matter how many competing job offers you have, negotiating your salary is an absolute must.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.

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