When preparing to apply for an internship it is vitally important to seriously evaluate your online presence. Employers are tapping into social media sites as a way to learn more about job applicants and will be using their findings to weed out resumes. Once you’ve secured an internship, it is important to maintain a professional presence online and to be mindful of how you use social media to connect with co-workers and contacts. There are a number of social networking sites that offer ways to connect with peers and professionals. Outlined below are tips for some of these sites. These rules can be applied to most of the sites commonly used today.
Facebook: When Facebook was first launched in 2004, the site was limited strictly to those with an educational email address, meaning that only college students and faculty/staff could create a profile on the site. In just seven years, this social networking site has become well known to not only college students, but professionals of all ages. Please take note of these tips when using your Facebook account or other social networking site.
* Know and utilize your privacy settings. Facebook allows for numerous privacy settings, which gives you control over who has access to your information, photographs, etc. Test out your settings by searching for yourself.
* Friend with caution. Don’t feel as though you must friend everyone you meet you may want to wait until after your time in D.C. to friend your boss, coworkers, or others you meet in a professional setting.
* Be wary of inappropriate photos and status updates. Jokes and photos often don’t translate as well on the internet as they do in person. Be careful of posting things that may seem inappropriate or strange to others.
NOTE: If you are underage, never post a picture of you while drinking.
* When in doubt, don’t post. While it can be very tempting to post pictures of parties, drinking and other college pastimes, the reality is that potential employers may be able to see your page. Play it safe by keeping your Facebook page professional!
Blogging: Remember the internet can be seen by anyone. If you choose to blog, you are accepting that those beyond your intended audience may read your entries. Many organizations have Google alerts set up for their company name and other key words. This means that an entry with a mention of your organization could quickly fall into your supervisor’s hands.
* Don’t blog about confidential matters. This could not only get your organization in a bind, it could also get you fired.
* Coworkers and meetings are off limits. We all need to vent once in awhile, but here’s a tip: don’t do it in a blog! Often the person you are discussing will find out about it, and this could permanently damage your professional relationship.
LinkedIn: What is LinkedIn? Regularly used in D.C., this site is different in that it is used as a professional, not social, networking site. The purpose of LinkedIn is to help you stay informed about your contacts and industry and to assist you in finding the people and knowledge you need to achieve your goals.
* Personalize your invitation. When adding a professional contact on LinkedIn, you will be prompted to “send a message” to a person you are asking to connect with. This is especially important if you have only met this person briefly. Take time to state who you are, why you are contacting them and what mutual organizations you may be a part of.
* Keep it strictly professional. Unlike Facebook, Myspace or other social networking sites, LinkedIn is meant to be a professional site. People connecting with you on this site will most likely be professionals in your field, so it is crucial to make an appropriate impression.
Twitter: Twitter is a microblogging and networking site that allows you to share 140 characters of information with others. Tweeting is popular in D.C. and used by many in a variety of industries.
* Give your Tweets a Voice. Twitter is used by many professionals to share their message and create a buzz about their organization or cause. Successful Tweeters keep their followers engaged by also sharing humor¬ous and personal tweets but there is a fine line that you should not cross.
* Keep it professional or keep it private. As with all social networking, you shouldn’t share information on the internet that you wouldn’t want anyone and everyone to see. If you don’t want to Tweet profes¬sionally, keep your tweets private and limit your fol¬lowers. Regardless of your privacy settings, don’t put anything in writing about your company or projects that is private or confidential.