When I began studying communications, way back in 2007, I walked into my first Public Relations class and was told “don’t post anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.” With Facebook still in a very early incarnation, and without the now popular Instagram and Snapchat competing for your attention, this was a very powerful statement. Nowadays, most people’s grandmothers are actually ON Facebook, and this once sage advice seems more like common sense. And yet…
So why should you care? Well, that should be obvious. While you may still technically be a student, you are also beginning to be viewed as a “young professional,” and the line between the two can be very treacherous.
As a student, you are (and should be) enjoying college life. Maybe that means making some decisions that, five years from now, you’ll reminisce about with your friends as you shake your heads and say “oh my gosh we were such idiots.” Memories are great. But not when those memories and those belatedly proclaimed “idiotic antics” are forever memorialized on social media. As you enter the world of the “young professional,” here is what you need to know about your use of social media.
70% of employers look at a prospective candidate’s social media before they hire an individual. More than half of these employers (54%) said they found information that led them to not hire a candidate.
Inappropriate photos. Blatant lies. Drug use. Discriminatory comments. These are some of the more obvious reasons employers have rejected a potential employee after looking into their online behavior.
In addition to the usual suspects, employers have cited some less obvious social media faux paus as reasons for rejection as well: bad-mouthing a former company, lacking professionalism, and poor communication skills (yes, this means that grammar and spelling matter on social media). 17% of employers have even cited “posting too frequently” as a reason for disqualification (no one likes a spammer).
But your social media doesn’t have to be a problem. It can actually work to your advantage when used properly:
Repost and share articles that show interest in your field.
Maintain a professional persona on platforms such as LinkedIn.
In fact, maintain a professional persona even when interacting on a personal platform.
Showcase your personality—part of the hiring process is finding someone who is compatible with your staff.
Show off your communication skills—maybe that just means writing very eloquent Facebook posts.
Join career-relevant networking groups.
Use it to YOUR benefit. Turn the tables and do some research on the company and the hiring manager to ensure that it’s a place that you would want to work.
Clean up your profile. Un-tag those unflattering photos your friend put up, edit those Facebook posts with spelling mistakes, and update your privacy settings where necessary. Just like you might take the time to clean up your dorm room from time to time (hopefully), it’s helpful to do the same with your online presence.
Sure, these facts and figures might seem scary, but it’s no reason to be a ghost! 57% of employers have reported that they are less likely to call someone in if the candidate has no online presence.
So yes, maybe you should still listen to the age-old advice of “don’t post anything you don’t want your grandmother to see,” but in addition to that there are ways to make your social media work for you. Embrace your newfound title of “young professional” and hit the ground running.