The internet is a wonderful invention. With it, we can get in touch with almost anyone from anywhere at the click of a button. However, as useful as it may be, the internet remains a double-edged sword. While it opens doors to a wealth of new, previously inaccessible knowledge, it does come with some unwritten rules and risks.
If you think that your social media accounts are completely secure, think again. Comments made on other people’s posts are easily visible to an audience you did not intend to reach, and there is always the possibility that some of your posts get shared by friends accidentally. According to a CareerBuilder survey in 2017, 70% of employers use social media to screen their candidates. Taking these into consideration, it’s pretty evident that setting some rules for yourself and being smart about your virtual presence is imperative.
#1 Keep Things Separate
Consider if it’s in your best interest to create separate personal and professional profiles. If you do create separate profiles, avoid linking them together. Use your professional profile to engage with relevant Facebook pages related to your line of work; it’s an effective way to keep tabs on industry changes and to stay up to date on the latest trends and movements. Companies are also using social media these days to advertise a new job vacancy or scholarship, so it is definitely wise to follow their social media accounts. Just remember, having a separate profile isn’t a green light to go wild on your personal accounts. Nothing is truly private when it comes to social media and the Internet.
While we’re on the topic of keeping it separate, here’s another thing to consider. Don’t just post the same thing on all the different social media platforms; each has its own use, so post accordingly. For example, use Instagram to showcase your visual or creative work if it’s relevant to your career, or let the pictures illustrate your personality.
#2 Portray The Right Image
Make sure that anyone looking at your social media profile will walk away with a positive impression. While you should definitely avoid sharing or liking questionable content (i.e., content that contains a lot of profanity or is generally not suitable for work), it’s perfectly fine to insert some of your own personality into your social media profile. Avoid coming off as a bland person with no interests or thoughts of your own. After all, your employers want to get a feel of whether you’re a good fit with their company culture. Try sharing news that interests you and use that to highlight what you value and what makes you tick. Express your thoughts on important social issues, but avoid coming across as condescending or self-absorbed.
This applies to any images you post as well, and especially your profile photo. You’ll want to set your profile picture as one that is well-taken, not one that shows that you are clearly intoxicated or in some state of undress. This is especially the case for your professional profile (e.g. LinkedIn) – have a professional looking headshot that will help employers put a face to your name.
#3 Post Wisely
Potential employers are not likely to be impressed if they find something on your account that displays extreme opinions or any sort of unsavoury or discriminatory remarks. Better to think twice before expressing your opinions online for all to see. Try keeping your language and tone professional; it might be your personal profile, but seeing posts where you’re swearing like a pirate can be a huge turnoff for a potential employer.
If you’re tempted to post negatively about your current or previous employer, don’t. No matter how cryptic you might think you are, the negativity will come through. Don’t constantly post about how you can’t wait until it’s time to knock off work or that you hate Mondays. There’s no surer sign to your employer that you’re not truly driven about what you do. If you really need to let off some steam, save it for private rants with trusted friends and family members.
Comments you make on social media platforms are just as important, as these can and will show up on your friends’ timelines easily. This isn’t a huge deal on its own, but keep in mind that debates or misread comments may be viewed negatively. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to spurt out unpleasant comments which a potential employer might stumble upon. If you find things are getting out of hand, step away from social media and avoid blowing up the matter.
It’s a good idea to stay off social media if you’re intoxicated. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to post something that you normally wouldn’t or share a compromising image, even if you think it’s ‘just for fun’.
#4 Showcase Your Capability
Use social media as a platform to showcase your abilities and highlight the kind of work you’re looking for. Be it sharing work that you’ve done or engaging in intellectual discussions, strut your stuff so your potential employers will know they’re looking at someone who can add value to their organisation, and who is actually interested in taking the organisation further. Linking your online portfolio to your profile is also a good way to direct your future employers to check out your work.
#5 Share Passion Projects
Showcase personal projects that you’re passionate about, even if it’s not related to your industry of choice. It shows that you’ve got interests outside of work that you have the initiative to pursue. It’s also a good way of demonstrating some soft skills that you have. For example, if you’ve organised a charity drive or a mission trip overseas, it’s a good indication of not just your empathy, but your leadership and organisation capabilities. Projects related to your field of study are also fair game. It shows that you’re passionate enough to improve your skills outside of the mandatory school projects.
#6 Be Smart!
At the end of the day, stick to this general rule of thumb when posting on social media. Is it something that you’d be proud to show your parents or to one of your little nieces? If it is, you’re probably good to go; otherwise, it might be better to just hold off. Nobody really needs to know every sordid detail of your life anyway.