Keeping social media professional

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You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their social media pages. If you have carefully curated social media, your accounts can work in your favor to spark interest and add to your resume. However, if you are not careful about what you post, these platforms can be the difference between getting a job offer or not.

Search yourself– what comes up?

It is important to state that social media is in the personal domain and control of the user. However, when applying for a job, people must know that their prospective employer will most likely search them and look for their social media accounts.

To hear an employer’s perspective on the effects of social media on the hiring process, I spoke with Anna Zeck, Director of Content at Kevin Barry Art Advisory. Zeck states that people need to expect that employers will look them up during the search process and recommends setting your social media accounts to private. Note: Some companies pay a service to see private accounts. However, setting your social media pages to private is still recommended when applying for roles.

Professional guidelines to follow

Of course, every company is different in how they look at social media, and every person can’t be expected to be a saint on their platforms. However, there are red flags that should always be avoided on social media. These include:

  • Anything that could come across as mean or hateful towards others.
  • Anything explicitly sexual, vulgar, or graphic of that nature. This includes photos and videos, but also comments and tweets.
  • Anything showing you partying too hard.

In response to this last point, Zeck provided further insight: “When recent college grads apply, I expect to see photos of parties or classic college activities, so I don’t read too much into that either. Just know that it is human nature for people to form opinions/assumptions/first impressions from the photos they see. You don’t want to be going into an interview already having to come from behind or have to dispel an inaccurate assumption.”

Think about the position you are applying for

When curating your social media to be professional, it is also a good idea to think about the type of job you are applying for. Zeck gives a great example of this:

“I also think it makes a difference if the job you are applying for is a more public position. For example, as a journalist, your work is very public and it’s reasonable to assume that sources will google you as well,” she explains. “So, I want someone who will be a good representative of our publications and who won’t require a ton of explaining when googling his or her name. One time, someone applied for an editor position and when I looked on her Facebook page, she frequently posted about political conspiracy theories. Considering one of the tenets of journalism is truth and objectivity, I knew I would never be able to fully trust her as a journalist, and I subsequently canceled the interview.”

3 tips from a social media professional

CEO of the National Institute for Social Media, Jennifer Radke, believes being purposeful, present and real are essential for maintaining a professional image on social media.

Be Purposeful

Radke’s first suggestion is to make sure you know the goal of each platform and how you want to use it. Then, use that criteria to shape your online profiles.

“If you are wanting to network with individuals in your field to learn and grow through discussion and brainstorming, you will want to think strategically about who you connect with, the content that you share, and the ask you make.”

Be Present

“I like to compare this to networking in person. You don’t want to get your profile all ‘dressed up’ and then stand in the corner. It is ineffective and will not help you reach your goals,” Radke states.

To be present, one must join in on the conversation, share content, respond to comments, and ask questions.

Be Real

It may seem easy but being true to yourself is one of the most important things.

“You can’t claim to be one thing online and be another thing in person,” says Radke. “Take the time to evaluate who you are and what you bring to the table and then help share that with the world. Being something you are not will create red flags and distrust.”

Finding a Balance

“In all, I don’t think you need to try to make your social media look professional to the point where you’re not being authentic to yourself or not using social media the way you actually want to but use discretion and consider whether you would want to explain something to a potential boss or your parents. If you would be embarrassed to explain a post to your parents, considering whether it’s crossing the line,” Zeck says.

Social media is in the personal domain of the user. Be yourself but also know what you put on social media never truly goes away!


By Mandy Hay

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