There’s no doubt that HCers are up-to-date with the latest technology trends and have established their own social media presence. As you’re applying for internships and your first real job out of school, it’s more important than ever to consistently monitor that presence. As my online journalism professor Mo Krochmal states, “Anything that is posted online is public.” Whether it’s a silly snapshot of you in your new spring frock with a drink in your hand, or a hilarious but inappropriate status update, someone is always observing you (shiver!). Here is what you need to know about how to clean up and maintain an appropriate online presence to get the job or internship of your dreams.
Employer Search Tools
You may do well in your job interview, but that might not be enough. “There is a transition from college to work professional. Employers want to know that you’re smart in-person and online, so be aware,” Hofstra University Career Center Director Fred Burke said. While search engines like Google and Bing seem like the most obvious go-to, there are other options out there. Sites like yasni.com and snitch.name allow anyone to search your name and filter options that come up. Try them out and see what pops up. If you have a common name, information may come up that doesn’t pertain to you, so be sure to consistently brand yourself. For example, add in a middle initial and use it with your email, Facebook name, and personal website to differentiate yourself.
Since it’s the Internet, some sites will automatically re-publish information about you. For instance, 123people.com has my HC photo, blogs, class videos, and more stored for anyone to see. “You understand how much information is out there, you need to know how to contribute positive information on your own. On particular sites, you can ask that information can be taken down. But, everything, including e-mail, is stored somewhere in a database,” said Krochmal.
“If you’re a job seeker you should keep your settings high,” Burke said. “You shouldn’t have open profiles with inappropriate defaults.” It’s not just photos – Everything on your page should be rated “G.” Don’t use curse words in your favorite quote section and don’t post moody or whiny status updates (you shouldn’t be venting through the Internet, anyway!). Facebook gives you an option to block your name from coming up entirely, so take advantage of that if you wish (Account àPrivacy Settings àSearch). If you’re constantly tweeting, Twitter also gives you an option to lock your tweets to only your followers (Settings àTweet Privacy àProtect My Tweets).
“Friending” your Supervisor or Employer
Should you do it? “It really depends,” Burke said. “Status updates are cached on Facebook or Twitter so your employer will see it.” Do you really want your boss knowing intimate details of your life? It’s truly an individual choice. Once you’re friends with a supervisor, they are able to monitor how often you’re on the social networking sites when you should be working. On the positive end, FB is a great way for you to stay in touch with your past supervisors or employers. An occasional friendly wall post may be as pleasant as snail mail (though you should participate in both – who doesn’t love getting tangible mail?).
Is your boss requesting you? Use similar logic. If you’ve maintained your page correctly, add him or her. If you don’t feel comfortable, create a new Facebook page; that way you can have one for professional encounters and another for fun.
If you’re one to flaunt your adorable pics, it’s crucial to constantly screen your notifications (ouu, a notie!). Are you scantily-clad? Is there a beer can creeping in the corner of the photo? Did you go a little too far at that Jersey Shore themed party and end up acting like Snooki? Even if you’re of age, you shouldn’t have photos of you with alcohol in your pictures. “A conservative approach is best when it comes to alcohol. When you are looking at a (still) tough job market, you don’t want to introduce any iota of doubt about your ability or your maturity,” said Krochmal.
Burke agreed. “Alcohol does not belong in the job search process. Employers are making a judgment based on that.” He explained that companies consider, “Is this someone who can go out with clients?” “Will they drink excessively in front of them?” “Will they be the ones coming late on Monday due to a massive hangover?” Bottom line: Un-tag inappropriate pictures or hide them entirely.
If there’s a not too flattering video or photo of you up that isn’t yours, you’re going to need to speak with the person who owns it directly. Whether it’s a close friend or a random peer from high school, send them a professional message explaining that you are applying for jobs and would rather the footage be erased entirely. They might be difficult, so if they are, remind them that they too will need to go through a similar process and owning these kinds of photos isn’t looked at well by employers. Be polite but stern.
One of the amazing things about Twitter is that you can follow industry big names as well as your employer. Use this to your advantage: Actively “retweet” your favorite company’s news and attribute them as sources. For all you journalism junkies, follow the Hearst Corporation or Ed2010 for great updates. Bit.ly is a helpful tool, but doesn’t give your followers a clue as to where you’re getting your information. If your employer can see you use Twitter as a tool to stay ahead in the industry you’re in, then you’re golden. This shows your interest in the field and your ability to navigate the Internet in a mature manner.
The Big Picture
Be mindful that social media plays a big role in business today. The ability to interact with a company’s customers is essential, so if you use social networks wisely employers will be interested. “Have a professional understanding of the services,” Burke advised. If you can do that, you’re set for the real world. Happy surfing!
Fred Burke, Director of the Hofstra University Career Center
Mo Krochmal, Assistant Professor of Journalism at Hofstra University