Four Tips to Get a Handle on Social Media

Photos from your 21st Birthday. Retweets from Kim Kardashian. Liking an article on “25 Ways to Procrastinate.” All things you wouldn’t want a potential employer to come across while conducting a Google search for your name.

When Facebook first stepped on the scene and blew open the door on social media, career centers warned job-seeking students to stay off the site. If you simply refused to give up the “friends” you had so proudly confirmed, advisors compromised by insisting that you keep your profile completely private.

Since then, things have changed dramatically. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and even the newest craze Pinterest have become mainstream parts of our society. Everyone is on it – your mom, your professors, your favorite brands and even potential employers.

As social media becomes more mainstream, the do’s and don’ts of maintaining an appropriate online persona have become hazy. You cannot simply stay away from social media. Not only would it be extremely difficult in today’s day and age, it would also deprive you of what many employers now see as a valuable skill set – social media proficiency. The truth is, social media can be a powerful tool to brand yourself as an ideal candidate. Think of it as an extension of your resume, another way to wow potential employers with your interests and skills. That’s not to say that some things shouldn’t be tucked away. Those spring break photos will not do you any favors when interviewing with the State Department.

So how does a young professional navigate their way through today’s social media world? Below are a few tips for ensuring that your online persona sells you rather than hurts you.

Do an online inventory of yourself. No question about it, today’s employers will Google you. Beat them to the punch and do your own online search before sending out those resumes. Pay special attention to any abandoned social media profiles. Just because you haven’t logged into MySpace since high school, doesn’t mean it was wiped from the Internet. Now is a good time to delete or bury ties to these accounts.

Know how to keep private content private. Let’s be clear. There really is no such thing as truly private content on the Internet. Even if you share it with a handful of friends, there’s always the chance that someone else will share that content publically. If there’s an online photo or message that you worry about becoming public, delete it. Save a copy for yourself, but remove it from the Internet. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Brand yourself with public content. Remember to think of your social media presence as an extension of your resume. Follow and retweet professionals in your field of interest. If you’re seeking a career in finance, publically share the day’s top financial news stories on your Facebook timeline. If you’re on Pinterest, create a few professional boards such as “Articles on Finance” and “Tips & Tools for My Future Career.” Potential employers will be impressed by your initiative. Take advantage of the fact that they will be searching for you online. Pique their interests so they have no choice but to give you an interview.

Who you like, pin, follow and retweet matters! Part of your personal brand is with whom you associate. We all love to follow celebrities on Twitter, but make sure you are also following news outlets and companies relevant to your field. Weed through your likes and groups on Facebook to make sure you’re not following anything that a future employer could view as inappropriate. Be weary of favoriting a YouTube video that could be viewed as offensive.                                                                         

And there you have it. Four tips to help you be the best Internet you, you can be! 

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