Living far away from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, I use social media daily to stay current with everything going on back there. It’s a great way to keep up with my personal world of family and friends. But social media — Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — is also becoming more and more a tool of the professional world, so caution is in order.
Employers are increasingly checking the social media sites of potential employees or interns — and what they find there could be the difference between getting the job or not. It is important to use social media in your day-to-day life but it is also important to keep it clean.
I always tell students I counsel or teach at Ivy Tech to start by “Googling” themselves. It’s very important to see what others see. This way you will know what your social identity is online … and what you need to clean up. You may have pictures that you thought you deleted or photos you’re tagged in on other people’s sites. Just know that employers will “Google” you too, and you’ll want to make sure everything they see is positive and tells the story you want them to get. Even if your settings are set to private, tech-savvy employers can work around that or at least wonder why you have such strong privacy settings. The best thing you can do is start cleaning up your online identity.
And the best way to keep your profiles clean is to put some serious thought into everything you post — before you post — and then to monitor what you post.
Never post anything that could be offensive or anything that discriminates against any group, person or company. No matter what you intended, consider whether people could get the wrong impression — and what that can later mean to you. Try to post things that you like, things you value and have a passion for so those following you, or searching for you, can get a better understanding of who you are as a person and how you want to be known. And limit the personal information you share on social media; keep your private life private if you don’t want everyone in the world to know.
The fact is this: Even if that spring break trip or your college roommate’s bachelorette party were a blast, a potential employer may not think so. You should delete all those incriminating or offensive photos you thought were cute or funny at the time. Even if you are very qualified, even if you have the best resume and interview, your social media profile could determine whether they want you to be part of their company or not.
Social media is a huge tool for connecting with potential employers and finding great jobs out there. But it is something that can really help you or really hurt you. It is up to you to decide what you want your social identity to be. For decades, the best advice has been “your biggest asset is your reputation.” In the age of social media, this is truer than ever.
Shannon Niedzwicki, director of Career Services for Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region, writes an occasional series of columns on finding jobs and succeeding in the workplace. For more information, email Niedzwicki at firstname.lastname@example.org.