Most professionals maintain a variety of social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Let’s face the reality; social media is not going anywhere, and professionals will likely be adding more social media sites and memberships to their online profile in the years to come. There is nothing wrong with social media. The concern is “How” a working professional or an employee uses social media. When you post text or images to your social media sights, you are leaving a “digital footprint” that potential employers will likely be able to uncover just by doing a quick Google search on you. Now, social media is often a platform where people post images and comments meant for friends and family, which is understandable. However, what may have been a joke of a post of you holding up a beer bottle or your posting vulgar language while joking with a friend suddenly become evidence to visitors to your sites that you are unprofessional, fair or not.
Think of all the times that you posted to Facebook where you uploaded a picture of yourself drunk or similarly incapacitated or instances when you exchanged harsh words with a friend or family member on social media. Potential employers will likely be able to access some of those posts. For those who restrict access to their social media sites, you are not as protected as you may think. All you need is for one friend to repost or share something from your Facebook page, and it is out there for anyone to see. With all of this in mind, keep the following strategies in mind so that you can limit the access to hiring managers and potential employers have to your social media posts.
Don’t post inappropriate material. Easy enough. From this day forward, don’t post anything on social media that may be seen as unprofessional or in any way inappropriate. Especially for job seekers early in your career, be careful of everything you post. Ask yourself if what you want to post reflects positively or negatively on you. You could create a username that is not in any way connected with your real name and try to hide inappropriate posts that way, but again, all you need is for one friend to share a post and identify you in the said post, and it is out there.
Use appropriate usernames. From email to Twitter accounts, create and use usernames that are professional. Using nicknames may present you as not mature, which is not the impression you want to leave from your time online. For example, instead of “[email protected]” use your initials with a number (MJS123firstname.lastname@example.org).
Erase the bad. Do a Google search of yourself and look at which of your posts and images pop up. Anything that you feel an employer may see as “unprofessional” should be deleted. If it is a post or image on a friend or family member’s page, ask them to delete it immediately. That should help reduce the likelihood of a hiring manager, or members of a hiring committee will see it.
Post the good. Unfortunately, even deleting images and text from social media doesn’t necessarily mean it is gone for good and irretrievable. Once something is posted, there will always be the potential for it to be recovered and reshared. To address this, take the time to post positive messages and images on your social media sites. Flood the internet with posts that reflect your professionalism. Include posts and images of your completing community service or of you at the office completing a project or giving a presentation. By doing this, you will increase the likelihood that anyone looking you up on the web will see nothing but good evidence of why you should be hired.