Gabbi Baker, a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is like many college students today: She is an avid user of social media. For Baker, it's a habit more than a hobby; she says she constantly checks her networks for updates, sometimes going less than 10 minutes between visits to her Twitter feed.
"I've really found [social media] to be an instrumental tool in building my network and learning what I want to do careerwise," the junior business and marketing major says. "I think social media will continue to remain important to me as I move on to my first job."
[Imagine college life without social media.]
If faced with a job offer from a company that restricted access to social media websites in the workplace, Baker says she would be hesitant to accept it.
"I don't know if I'd necessarily value a company that doesn't see the value of social media," she notes. "I couldn't imagine not being able to check Twitter when I'm at work on my work computer."
According to a recent study by Cisco, which surveyed 1,400 college students and 1,400 young professionals between the ages of 21 and 29 in 14 countries, some students would be willing to sacrifice salary and employment opportunities in favor of social media and technology freedoms.
Fifty-six percent of college students who responded to the survey said they would either not accept a job offer from a company that blocked access to social media in the workplace, or would join and attempt to sidestep the company policies. And one in three college students reported that they would prioritize social media freedom and device flexibility over salary in accepting a job offer, the survey notes.
Lindsey Pollak, a career expert and author of Getting from College to Career, says that today's college students have very strong beliefs about where they want to work, and she isn't shocked that students may not be willing to make some concessions for an employment opportunity.
"It doesn't surprise me that this younger generation prioritizes personal life [and] self-expression above what we consider traditional marks of success like salary and title," she says. "I think that personal freedom ... and having the best technology is a huge life-happiness driver."
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And although many companies have begun to embrace social media in the workplace, there are organizations that still may block it from employees over concerns of how they might express themselves on social networks, Pollak notes.
"I think it's very backward thinking," she says. "And, frankly, I believe that everybody should reject a job that doesn't have social media access because I think social media usage is essential to the vast majority of jobs out there today." (Pollak acknowledges, though, that there are some workplaces—such as government agencies—that block social media access for security reasons.)
While some companies may fear a public embarrassment due to the potential negligence of an employee's social media usage, other companies justify restrictions due to potential losses of productivity, says John Paul Engel, founder of Knowledge Capital Consulting, a strategy consulting firm.
"Maybe I'm old school, but I feel that when you're working for somebody, you owe them a duty of loyalty," Engel notes. "And when someone is paying for your time, you should be devoted at doing your best to meet their needs."
Engel says companies that offer employees freedom to use social media during the workday should consider offering a lower salary because an employer "would have to expect there would be a loss of productivity as a result."
"If you look at it and you think over the course of a year, the time you spend on social media is quite a large theft from your employer," he says.
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While the threat of lost productivity can be an unintended result of offering social media access to employees, according the survey by Cisco, 40 percent of college students would be willing to accept a lower salary in return for this freedom.
GW's Baker says that although the allure of a higher salary is tempting for a newly minted college graduate, having this flexibility is more important at this stage in her career.
"I would take a job based more on the ability to have those freedoms as opposed to a higher paying salary," she notes. "You obviously don't want to spend half of your workday browsing social media sites, but if you need a break [or] some sort of creative inspiration, it can serve as a great tool. And I think if that means having a cut in your salary so you can have that freedom, in the beginning, I think that's OK."
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