By Sarah Wang
Employers, admissions officer, and interviewers of today’s day and age have a powerful tool for evaluating candidates – social media. The power of connective technology has long been praised for its far-reaching interactive abilities, but few consider the effect a digital footprint may have on one’s viability come time for job or school application.
There is no surefire way to ensure that any negative online activity will go undetected by employers, organizations, or even the general public, but there are definitely precautions one can take to maintain a positive social media footprint and use the power of technology to your utmost advantage.
Be Careful of What You Share, Like, or Comment
This may seem like an obvious habit, but it is often the most difficult one to build. Most tech-savvy users, teenagers and millennials in particular, can relate to the addictive pastime of endless scrolling through social media feeds, tagging friends and sharing or reacting to content. Although these actions may seem trivial or only visible to the individuals involved, keep in mind that several networking sites’ algorithms, especially Facebook’s, does display your activity on the newsfeeds of users you are connected to. There’s no need to suddenly cease all online activity; just be sensitive to the nature of the content you are engaging with online.
Don’t Use Profanity or Slang
Again, keeping your words clean may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to slip up. Ensure that the wording in all of your posts or comments is unlikely to offend anyone. If you’re unsure of whether you should use a controversial word, staying on the safe side and replacing it is always the better option. Taking the time to clean out old, outdated, or potentially offensive activity is worth your time. You never know what may be dug out, and you definitely don’t want to have to splutter through a defense during an interview.
Be Sensitive to Controversial Topics
Although we greatly enjoy the freedom of speech, professionally, it is a good idea to avoid actively promoting or producing extreme or famously disputed issues. These include extreme religious, political, ethical, or racial views. Of course, we as Americans have every right to express our own personal perspective, however, you don’t want to run the risk of offending anyone who may be paramount in deciding your educational or occupational future.
Dress & Act Appropriately
A large part of building an impressive online presence is cultivating your online image. The first step in fostering a healthy work relationship is creating trust and respect. Recruiters are much more likely to select you as a candidate if they can already imagine you fitting into their respective work or school environments. In other words, keep the rave receipts and obscene gestures to an absolute minimum.
Review Privacy Settings
Give yourself the peace of mind of keeping your profile as private as possible. While most social media sites do not allow you to go completely incognito, there are still steps you can take to secure your account. Do this by reviewing Facebook privacy settings, choosing to be a private user on Instagram, turn off Location Sharing and manage the “Who Can” section in Snapchat, and protect your tweets on Twitter if your accounts are for personal use.
Showcase Your Talents and Passions
Your social media isn’t just a platform for you to share your vacation memories and food pics – it’s also a fantastic opportunity to show recruiters who you are outside of your application. Sharing your hobbies and achievements not only impresses others but also allows recruiters and interviewers to find common ground with you and see that you can maintain a balanced work-social life. Who knows, perhaps you will bond with someone who is just as avid about your passions as you are and make that emotional connection that will secure you that spot.
Build a Professional Social Media Presence
Creating a positive social media footprint isn’t just about making the most out of your personal accounts, it is also about actively networking on business platforms, such as LinkedIn. LinkedIn very much immerses you in the business networking world and allows you to follow and engage with both industry giants and local professionals in the specialized career niche you wish to pursue. Additionally, it goes without saying that the longer you’ve been active on a site and the more connections you make, the more easily prospective employers and schools will be able to find you and all the accomplishments listed on your profile.
This mental checklist may seem difficult to enforce at first, but with time and practice, keeping your social media clean and impressive will become a strong and crucial habit. As the saying goes, you reap what you sow; the mental perseverance and effort you invest now will most definitely pay off in the future. It’s never too late to forge new habits — start now and make the most out of the power of social media!