Imagine applying to your dream internship or job. You have great references, credentials, and experience. You nail the interview, leave an outstanding impression on the employer, and fall even more in love with the position you applied for. You know you’re a perfect fit for the job, and you don’t think there’s any way that the employer won’t hire you.

But you don’t get a call back.

Why? Because of a photo of you holding a red solo cup on your Facebook profile.

As an Advertising- Public Relations major, I know that maintaining a professional image both in person and on social media is crucial if I plan to be successful in my future career; however, I was astonished when I learned that, according to a study conducted by CareerBuilder, 52% of employers check social media profiles of prospective employees prior to hiring them. In addition, 48% of employers who look at prospective employees’ social media profiles report that they have found information that has led them to not hire a candidate.

In the past decade, social media has become an integral part of our society. Think about it; almost every college student you know has some form of social media, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr. Because many of us make social media part of our daily lives, we post a lot about ourselves on the Internet, which makes it incredibly easy for other people— even people we don’t know —to obtain personal information about us.

When I began applying for internships, I decided to take a look at my social media presence from the perspective of an employer to see if there was anything I needed to update or delete to make good impressions on employers who search for me. I quickly realized that there is more involved in utilizing social media for professional purposes than I thought; there are so many different privacy settings, platform-specific preferences, and ways to share content. After doing some research, I decided to transform my social media profiles to show myself to employers in the best light possible.

So, what’s appropriate for the eyes of the Internet?

Well, the saying goes, “If you don’t want your grandmother to see it, don’t post it.” Although I have always been careful about what I post on social media, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between appropriate and potentially offensive; especially online, people often perceive things differently than the poster intended for them to. When I scanned through a long history of posts on my Facebook and other social media accounts, I used a few guidelines to decide what to keep and what to delete.

Anything racist, sexist, or derogatory in any way is never acceptable.

Employers don’t want their companies represented by employees who make prejudiced comments about other people. Even posts that are joking in nature could be taken the wrong way by both employers and the general public.

Employers don’t want to read intimately personal details about your life.

You wouldn’t put details about your recent breakup on your resume, so it’s generally a good idea to keep such personal information off the Internet. Social media is great for posting about your interests and experiences, but anything deeply personal probably shouldn’t be on there.

Negative commentary about your school or workplace will reflect badly on you.

It might seem obvious to refrain from posting negative comments about your school, work, teachers, or coworkers, but people still do it. And guess what? They either get fired or are unable to get a job. Employers try to make sure that their employees aren’t going to badmouth their company, especially on the Internet where everyone can see it.

Anything considered to be in bad taste by the general public is probably not appropriate.

Whether it’s a crude joke or a trashy monologue, employers might not appreciate it; if you think a post could be potentially offensive, it probably isn’t a good idea to share it.

Remove any inappropriate photos.

Provocative photos or photos of you doing anything illegal give employers a good reason to not hire you. Regardless of the lifestyle you live, you need to keep your social media free of any images that could reflect badly on you.

Be wary of what other people tag you in.

Your own social media accounts aren’t the only ones you need to worry about; your friends could easily share inappropriate posts or pictures about you and tag you in them or use your name. Employers could potentially find information about you that is on someone else’s social media accounts, so ask your friends to take the inappropriate posts down to avoid trouble.

Utilizing privacy settings

Almost all social media platforms have a “private” option, so only people who follow or friend you can see what you post. When I started looking into internships, I set my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to private because I didn’t necessarily want employers having easy access to every single post I made.

It’s important to remember, however, that nothing that you post on the Internet is confidential, even if it is on a “private” account. All posts can be saved and shared. Employers also have crafty ways of gathering information; during interviews, some employers ask prospective employees to “friend” one of the company administrators so they can view information on private accounts.

While having private social media accounts isn’t a foolproof method of keeping employers from gathering information on you, it is still a good way to keep details of your life relatively secure.

Getting LinkedIn!

LinkedIn is a platform that I was unfamiliar with until recently; now, I know that it is a vital tool for professional development in modern society. As an Advertising- Public Relations student, making connections is one of the most important factors in my future success. I realized that LinkedIn is a great networking tool, so I finally took the time to create one. It is useful for professionals in any field to make connections and even find jobs. Doesn’t LinkedIn sound great? It can be very helpful if used correctly.

LinkedIn is not a place to be shy; it is a networking tool. It’s important to connect with others, join groups, and respond to messages in a professional manner. Through communicating with others, you are building your reputation.

Making sure your resume information is up to date and uploading a professional headshot will give you the best chance of making good impressions on other professionals in your field. Don’t use a selfie as your profile picture on LinkedIn; instead, have a professional headshot taken. It makes a world of difference.

One of the most intriguing features of LinkedIn is that you can see who views your profile. It’s important to keep tabs on your views because they show who is interested in you. However, it’s a two way street; changing your visibility settings to allow other people to see that you have viewed their pages is a way of reciprocating the interest.

Every college student should have LinkedIn, regardless of what field he or she is in. Quality LinkedIn profiles help students and professionals to network, share information, and develop professionally.

To wrap up…

Social media is such an influential part of society today. It is changing the way people communicate and share information. Employers now use social media to communicate with employees, find people to interview, and conduct background research on potential hires. Therefore, social media should be used as a tool and not a toy. Sharing pictures of your family vacation on Facebook is great; some social media platforms are intended to be personal. However, sharing inappropriate posts or photos can harm future employment opportunities.

Employers have access to so much information on you through your social media accounts, which is why it’s important to make sure that they see exactly what you want them to see when they pull up your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr. College has so many opportunities for students to get jobs or take internships in their fields of study. Why would you want to forfeit a great opportunity for you to further your career just because of a questionable fan page or a photo that shows you in a negative light? I cleaned up my social media to take care of my future career; now, it’s your turn.

What do you think is appropriate to have on social media? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks so much for reading!


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