Can You Get Ahead In Your Career Without Social Media?

August 22nd 2017

Ned*, a twenty-something New York-based brand strategist, quit Facebook after college and has never logged back into the site.

“When I first quit it, people found it much more shocking,” Ned tells ATTN:. “ Post-election, people get it.”

This feeling—post-election social media fatigue—isn't unique to Ned. Six-in-ten Americans get their news from social media, and with the divisive political climate of the day infiltrating social media feeds, many people are left feeling fatigued and looking to escape.

Someone like Ned stands out though: he has a successful career while side-stepping social media, begging the question if Millennials can delete their accounts and still get ahead.

The Millennial workplace is intertwined with technology. So can a successful career exist without being connected?

Nearly 90 percent of Americans between the ages 18 to 29 are on at least one social media site, and many of them are using these platforms to advance their careers.

As a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey implored business owners in 2011, “Millennials will expect a workplace technology ecosystem that includes social networking.” This has seemingly come to fruition as companies fold online activity and gamification into workplaces. Young workers and social media now go hand-in-hand – even in the office.

Unsurprisingly, experts see social media as important for career advancement.

Scott Dobroski, a community expert at job site Glassdoor, sees social media as mostly positive for employees, something that can “reflect your interests and personality in a curated way” and be a job search booster.

80 percent of recruiters and hiring managers [use] social media to vet job candidates,” Dobroski told ATTN:, alluding to how online profiles help define a person beyond a resumé. Moreover, “being an influential voice online on a specific subject can help you when job seeking, especially if that subject relates to your career.”

Dobroski believes social media is particularly important for those in the early stages of a career. “[It is] high[ly] beneficial for you to be seen by others online," he told ATTN:.

Blair Decembrele, a LinkedIn "career expert," echoed the sentiment that social media is often a necessity—especially for forward thinking employers. “If you are expected to be digitally savvy, employers may wonder if you are up to speed,” Decembrele told ATTN: regarding job seekers who don’t use social media. Decembrele also pointed out a LinkedIn study that found 65 percent of professionals “agree that the impression you make online is just as important as the one you make in person.”

Yet, Decembrele understands how taxing social networks can be and recommends individuals do what's best for them personally. “Always have your professional aspirations in the back of your mind,” Decembrele said of social media. “If you ever feel that you are veering too far away from these goals, it might be a good idea to take a step back and evaluate what is hindering your career path.”

And people like Ned prove you can log off without limiting your career.

Sam*, an entertainment professional in Los Angeles, hasn’t seen his career suffer from being off social sites.

“I feel like I’m a working professional and I spend most of my time going to work,” Sam told ATTN:. “People do need to feel connected to you as a person but that can be achieved without social media.”

Eric, who is in his forties and works at a Los Angeles entertainment company, concurred. Like Ned and Sam, Eric hasn't seen his career suffer due to to his lack of social media participation.

“At my company and in my industry, just about everybody is active on social media but I still don’t feel I’m at a disadvantage due to my decision to opt out,” Eric – who wished to only use his first name – told ATTN:.

All three holdouts who spoke to ATTN:. said social media does have value for some processionals and that they, in their own ways, engage online via tools like LinkedIn and Instagram, for career advancement or a creative outlet.

But, as Ned said, the relationship workers have to their online presences has a catch: “[Social media]’s a way to show who you are, to build your personal brand, but it’s also the place where prospective employers look for red flags. It can be your making and your undoing.”

For those looking to exit the TMI corners of the Internet, know your career won’t end. Still, social media has its benefits at work.

Dobroski acknowledges that it might be important for people to step away from their accounts to reclaim a sense of control over their identity. For those hoping to quit, he suggested changing habits and maintaining at least one account.

“It may not be the best idea to abandon all channels entirely,” Dobroski said. “Just be smarter about when and what you post, [consider] what’s most important for your personal brand and career when it comes time for you to look for a new job.”

Even someone like Ned acknowledges this but sees the limits. “Look, social media can be a huge asset,” he said. “At the same time, there’s a pressure to contribute to whatever conversation is happening right now.”

“I don’t think sharing your hot take on every event that happens—political or otherwise—will always age very well,” he said. “And that’s a tough reality on a platform that never forgets.”

*Names were changed at subjects' request to preserve privacy.

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