By Adela Ghadimi, Assistant Director of Employer Development Washington D.C.
 
Photo Credit: college-social.com
Spiderman’s Uncle Ben hit the nail on the head when speaking to Peter Parker, stating that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Social media and technology are incredible tools at our disposal, but how thoughtful are you really being with your online profiles and the way in which you present yourself? Have you stopped to think about how these mediums that are entertaining and informative have the potential to interfere with your professional image and job search?

I’m not suggesting to stop using social media or posting online, but I do think everyone would benefit from some self-reflection when it comes to their online presence, and to perhaps reassess how transparent you actually want your life to appear online.
Are you considering graduate school? About to embark on your job or internship search? Chances are hiring managers and recruiters are going to be searching your name online, looking for the content of what you post online, and the types of pictures and people you associate with. In fact, more than 2 in 5 (43%) of hiring managers currently researching candidates via social media have said that their research has led them to their decision to not hire a candidate, due to evidence of drinking/drug use, inappropriate photos, discriminatory comments, and poor communication skills displayed on profiles, among other reasons.
Here are a few simple ideas to help you upgrade your online presence today:
Check the Privacy Settings on your Social Media Profiles Often!
 
We all get lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to our social media accounts, because most of us believe we have already set our privacy settings so “no one but our friends” can see our information. Unfortunately, that is all too often not the case. Particularly on Facebook, privacy regulations are changing faster than we can keep up with, and while you may have set your profile to be on lockdown 6 months ago, recent changes may have made access to your information easier than you think. You definitely want to stay on top of when social media outlets have a change in their privacy settings, so you can see how this impacts your profile.
Rather than having to read through long, legal-worded paragraphs, one thing that has worked for me in the past has been to have a sit-down with a colleague or friend, and de-friend or unfollow one another on our various social media accounts. This makes it much easier to see how your profiles are viewed by someone you are not connected to, and you might be shocked by how much information you can actually see.
Many employers are looking at your profiles, and hiring outside companies to research your presence online for many job industries, so it is really not something you want to take lightly.
*Tip: You can require permission before being tagged in photos on Facebook*
Eliminate the “Tween Years” Email Account!
While this is not related to your social media, it is directly linked to your professional persona online, and is a big part of how potential employers, recruiters, and advisors are going to see you.
This is a real one, and I can tell you from being on the receiving end of some shining examples of “creative” email addresses, they are noticed and are not doing you any favors. Do NOT send emails from sweetbaby72@embarassing.com or ilovensync12@foreveryoung.com. You are trying to present yourself as an aspiring professional who wants to be taken seriously in the real world. An email from mikesmith@normal.com comes across much better than rockthemike@pleasestop.com.
It is so easy to create a free email account that uses your actual name, with a middle initial or number at the end if yours is already taken, or just use your student email when pursuing professional endeavors.
*Tip: While we live in a digital era, you would be surprised to discover the value of sending a hand-written thank you note after an interview or informational meeting. Leave them with something positive to remember you by!*
Don’t Rely on Spellcheck, Proofread Everything!
Particularly in more professional online settings, be aware of the spelling and grammar you use on your profiles and social media accounts. Personally, I cringe every time I see someone have their title or place of work misspelled on LinkedIn, or when they tweet something out using the wrong “their,” “there,” or “they’re.”
The devil is in the details, so make sure you read through any articles or posts that you make online, and ensure that you are satisfied that your spelling and grammar is up to code.
This also applies to emails, because we’ve all had that frustrated feeling as we catch our typo right as we click send. Try to take the time to really re-read your words, and make sure you avoid these little mistakes when possible.
Always use proper salutations when sending emails as well. It really makes a difference when a hiring manager or faculty member receives an email addressed “Hello Professor X” or “Good Morning Ms. Jones,” rather than, “hey Sandi, how ya doing?”
*Tip: When replying to a professional email on your phone, remember to erase the “Sent from my iPhone” signature line when addressing a faculty member or potential employer/networking connection*
Use Social Media and Your Online Presence to Your Advantage!
Social media gives you a platform to allow employers to get a glimpse of who you are outside of your resume, cover letter or interview – you should take positive ownership of your personal brand through social media. If you choose to share content publicly, leverage it to your advantage.
Since you are going to be searched by employers, having something cool and different, like a blog or Pinterest showcasing your interests and hobbies, is good for your online presence – just keep it clean: no excessive profanity, racist remarks, etc.
Developing a social media strategy can be a great tool to assist you in your job search and throughout your career. For example, if you know you are interested in fashion, start a fashion blog and gain some credibility for your work and opinions that way. If you are into graphic design, you definitely want to set up a website featuring your abilities. For every background and track, there is a way you can brand yourself online and use your presence as a marketing piece about who you are, what you do, and where you want to be.
*Tip: Remember, LinkedIn is where you are trying to portray your professional image: don’t sync your LinkedIn to your other social media accounts unless it will enhance your professional image*
Go forward, be informed, be creative, and make sure you are doing all you can to stand out online, in a good way!