Soical Media and The Investment Banking Process

We often overlook the impacts social media can have on our internship process. My thoughts below thanks to a class I took during the process.

Breaking free of the damp dark subway, emerges Times Square; a world of blinding light and blaring sound. A cold swift breeze may traverse 7th avenue, and soon the glimmers of Madison Square Garden give way to dimly lit alleys. Caught between scarred walls, the alleys' blemishes of red paint, give way to an endless black abyss. Forever lost is that swift breeze, gone in the dark night of the Atlantic. However, on the horizon a faint light appears. The silhouette of a ship and its faintly inscribed name "Repost", rapidly approach. Steel walls toss aside the once swift breeze, diverting it back to the hypnotic light of New York City.

Social media seems to follow the same path of that swift cold breeze. A post breaks onto the bright bustling world of one's timeline, feed, or profile. After being tagged, liked, endorsed, poked, and commented, it filters down into the endless abyss of "show more". Long gone, until a random event, brings it right back into the hypnosis of a viral sensation. Forgotten, that post now experiences greater than before. Articles on Buzzfeed, Reddit, and iFunny repost and the cycle begins anew. So how do you handle social media?

The high school I went to was in the Wake County public school system, claim to fame; sassy twitter tweets. As brought to you by BuzzFeed's "16 Sassy Tweets From the Nation's 16th Largest School District". While funny, these sassy tweets were never meant to enter global stardom. Fearing my own journey into a viral sensation, I have taken a cautious approach towards social media. Better to have no content, than potentially harmful content. As such, one might classify me as a "lurker", or a member of an online community who observes, but does not actively participate. Which is strange, as I consider myself an outgoing person. I must say, I greatly enjoy all the memes, gifs, and articles others post. Daily I visit Reddit and Imgur for a quick laugh or interesting fact, but my involvement stops there. While a username may mask my identity, we all know it can easily be traced right back to the keyboard sitting in front of me. So my take is this: Why participate in an open forum, where a misinterpreted comment can come right back to me. To me the risk is not worth the reward of likes, points, or any other "internet currency".

Due to my irrational fear of becoming a viral sensation, my social media has very little of my own content. On Facebook I can find photos others have posted or tagged me in, but you will be unable to. Before the crazy stock market turmoil in China, my last tweet was from January 2013. Only recently have I begun to post articles on stock market happenings, as I take a professional approach towards my passion of investing. Even then, I tweeted eleven times in two weeks and have since to post or retweet articles. According to Linkedin my profile rank has increased 73% and I have achieved 12 profile views over the past week. Really on a streak there, but this is due to looming Internship interviews later in the fall. This past summer I was an intern at G******* Financial. At my midsummer review my boss commented "glad you are not as bland as your Linkedin page", it resonated within me. How could that affect his first impression of me? Upon later conversation, I found out that during final decisions for the interview process, they pulled up all the candidates' profiles for one last impression. As did 93% of hiring managers.

I have since updated my Linkedin, but now I am torn. On one hand my lack of social media content is my safety net, an insurance policy of sorts. On the other if 26% of recruiters, as reported by Jacob Davidson in "The 7 Social Media Mistake Most Likely to Cost You a Job", are using Facebook for even part of the hiring process, I am hindering myself. The few photos I allow for others to see on Facebook, are of me either playing football in high school or from a beach trip taken after senior year. Those photos luckily have no references of inappropriate behavior, but are from three years ago. Perhaps they see a high school senior rather than a college junior. For the upcoming summer, I am hoping to be one of about ten students from Virginia Tech to get an internship at a Wall Street bank. So far I have sent roughly fifty emails reaching out to alumnus, with a response rate of 40%. If the statistic 26% of recruiters look at Facebook holds true, thirteen people viewed my Facebook profile. Let's say half reconsider because of my Facebook, that just so happens to be 13% of the people I have reached out to. For the hours I have put into researching firms, preparing for technical interviews, and writing emails, maybe I should update my profile. A new profile picture and a couple recent photos would not hurt. But why does my material private information interfere with my professional appearance?

In banking there is what is called "The Chinese Wall". Brought by the Banking Act of 1933, it exists as an information barrier between banks company advisory and trading services, preventing the disclosure of "material, non-public information". In other words private information. Now that is a phrase banks love to make evident during compliance orientation. Fines and charges by the SEC, brought on by the passing of such "material, non-public information" have caused a great deal of hassle for the banks, leaving a lasting effect. Perhaps legislation for a personal "Chinese Wall" should exist. Take the case "Graziosi v. City of Greenville". Officer Susan Graziosi on Facebook posted publically an internal decision of Greenville police department, concerning the funeral of a fallen officer. The post was directly addressed to the City of Greenville, creating public information that was material in nature. Graziosi violated the "Chinese Wall". Under such an act termination in cases such as this would be justified, but some information would be private. After all if corporations are people, "Citizens United v. FEC", shouldn't people too have the same rights when it comes to "material non-public information".

Not only do corporations have the ability access your content, there is an uncertainty as to who beyond your audience will see content, how they will see it, and the opinion they take on the matter. For instance Armaan Sanghera, shares her uncertainty as to how her friends will react to her project, but she has clearly laid out the purpose, audience, and medium through which her content is shared. Today the interconnected world has led a belief in quickness over quality. Posts and comments are shared with the click of a button, with little thought as to the meaning behind the content. Within minutes that content can be framed in a meme, part of a news article, or read by your boss. Reframing content can add a whole new twist to the original meaning. Before you know it your Facebook post becomes part of an Imgur post titled "Facebook Fails", and the spread continues. Perhaps just as much thought should be put into how a post can be spun as what is posted. Privacy settings go as far as limiting who can originally see and access your information, not how it can be shared. A way to limit spread of content and the way it is framed should be considered.

I have worked to create my own Chinese Wall of sorts with me as the gatekeeper. On Facebook and Twitter my current privacy settings are maxed out. A google search of my name will return my twitter and Linkedin profiles both of which I have taken time to groom into a professional medium for selling myself to recruiters. In a sense I have attempted to separate my private information from my public information. Going beyond the top searches on google newspaper articles of my time playing football and wrestling appear. These further my positive image and also validate items that appear on my resume. I have tried to turn the presence of social media and the internet into an asset, thinking about the perception employers have. I am my own gate keeper, controlling the flow of information, what is allowed in and out. Being able to control information is a powerful tool, as I get to take pieces of the puzzle and frame them into the picture I want to be seen. In this regard having a social media presence is positive in nature, but often content cannot be framed as you wish.

Sometimes little pieces can be missed, a forgotten Myspace account, a post made for a class, or a high school newspaper article satirically written about you. Juan Enriquez points out bits of social media can be tattoos, taking a great deal of effort to remove. It is important to go beyond current social media, finding those faded tattoos before other see. While I never had a Myspace account, old online entries for classes and an interesting satirical article about me can be found. Thankfully these long forgotten mediums have no substantial impact beyond being forgotten. Now that these have been rediscovered, I have started the process of removing these from the Internet. This long process typically involves, deactivating accounts, contacting systems administrators, contacting system administrators again, going through the process of getting them to actually delete the content, and maybe finally having it deleted. I have yet to see the results of my supposed deleted blog articles done for English freshman year, but I will wait and see if they actually were removed. Having taken the final step to clear I would like to think a professional picture has been painted, but I will never truly know.

Much like the faded red graffiti scars in a New York alley, social media content finds a way of sticking. As Juan Enriquez in his Ted talk suggests they are much akin to tattoos in this way. Perhaps new legislation regarding private information will arrive, acting as a shirt covering that tattoo. Until then we must be careful and share Armaan Sanghera's fear of how others react. While I take the path of least resistance, "lurking" behind a professional Linkedin and privacy settings acting as a "Chinese Wall" on facebook. Where will you wind up on your journey down 7th Ave.? Times Square? A dimly lit alley? Or are you still floating across the Atlantic Ocean to be found?

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