Social media is firmly established in our lives – you rely on your Social Media for everything from communication, to online shopping, to finding a job. But if you’re looking to have a successful career in a public-serving role like Firefighting, cleaning up your Social Media is a must.
The UK Fire Service and Social Media
Most UK FRSs use social media channels to communicate with the public, share news and events and announce recruitment drives – chances are you follow one or more on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if you’re interested in a Fire Service career. It can be incredibly useful for increasing public awareness of safety issues, but it has to be used in the right way. This is why FRSs are incredibly careful about what they post, and how they word things, and why some Services even offer specialist Social Media training to their staff.
There have been issues with the rise of unofficial FRS accounts, on which disgruntled employees (or members of the public) have been known to vent their frustrations with their employers, or their local Service, or even the UK Fire Service as a whole. Profiles like these are even used to express discontent at governmental and local authority cuts, which have a knock-on effect on service levels and pay.
The problem here is that these unofficial accounts present the FRS they’re linked to in an extremely unprofessional light, and this can have lingering repercussions. Not everyone who reads posts on these accounts immediately realises that they don’t accurately represent the views of the FRS in question.
Your Social Media Responsibilities as a Firefighter
As a serving Firefighter, you’re the ‘face’ of the Fire and Rescue Service you work for, and as such are expected to uphold the highest professional standards at all times. This includes what you do and say online, and as such, you need to make sure that you keep your Social Media clean.
There have been many high-profile cases of professionals in a range of sectors being hauled over the coals for Social Media posts dating back years. Even though no ill intent was meant at the time of the post, or the post was made at a time in the individual’s life when they held very different views (or they were young and easily influenced) the result is the same: the end of a career.
If in doubt, delete. This includes photographs which may have seemed fun at the time, but that you would be professionally embarrassed by now.
As a Firefighter, you’re trusted by your employer to protect the confidentiality of any information you obtain while serving your community. While it may be tempting to share the details with friends online, it’s a clear breach of this confidentiality, and a sure-fire way to receive disciplinary action.
Similarly, badmouthing your Crew, your Manager, or any members of the public you interact with is incredibly bad form – even if you don’t mention them by name. This is the kind of thing that could also cost you a promotion or career move, as more and more recruitment teams are checking out candidate social media when deciding who to select.
Social media isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to use it – with your status as a trusted professional working with and for the public – in mind. Keep your social media use under control, and you can make it work for you and your career!