Tips to help you maintain an appropriate social networking profile when you are hunting for a job

My post on “8 tips to help recent college graduates (and others, too) find a job” drew more than 60 comments, with many people sharing their own advice and experiences in the job market.

Following up on that post, Lindsey Wright contacted me to say she was interested in sharing advice on using social networking when applying for a job. I agree that’s an important concern in today’s job market. Thanks to Lindsey for her guest post — and her advice is good not just those who are hunting for a job.

Due to social networking platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, we are revealing more and more of ourselves to the world every single day. This means that nearly everything you post has the potential of ending up on the computer screen of your family members, teachers in online courses or face-to-face classes, future bosses, and anyone else who feels like looking you up online.

When you were in high school and college, the idea of having a place where everybody could see your exploits sounded like a great idea, but now, if you are keeping your profile public, companies and prospective employers can see your profile too. That means that every lewd hand gesture or picture of you downing drinks can sway their opinion of you negatively.

Everything from your favorite movie to your political views are now open to the world, which makes it more important than ever to be careful of how you are representing yourself to a wide audience. Thus, it is important to remain mindful of what you post for your friends when you are looking for employment. Around 45 percent of employers are now looking at your status, and that number can only grow.

Thankfully, there are two ways you can go about keeping your private life private.

Prune your Facebook profile when you enter the job market

The first is by pruning your Facebook the minute you are on the hunt for a job. This time consuming task will help in the long run, as you remove pictures of those naughty Halloween costumes you wore, or what you looked like after your friend’s wedding. When you are done, all that should be left are you hanging out with friends, going on vacation, and the Halloween party or wedding.

Make your Facebook profile private

The other, more reasonably quick way of handling things is to make your profile private, much like many young men and women are doing before they go on the job market. This will limit the amount of people who can see all of your information, as well as show your potential bosses that you admire a bit of privacy. Depending on the job, this can be precisely what they want to see, because if you aren’t willing to show the world every detail of your life, then you probably won’t have a problem signing a non-disclosure agreement about what goes on behind the closed doors of your office, for example.

Eliminate social networking — but that’s pretty drastic

The most drastic of all of the things you can do is to just get rid of social networking entirely. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t an option to consider. At the very least you should go into your favorite search engines and throw in your name to see what appears. The likelihood is that you aren’t even aware where your name and status appear, but searching yourself will allow you to see yourself through other peoples’ eyes.

As the years go by, people’s social networking profiles are going to become more and more of a hotbed of controversy. Kids are now starting their profiles at the age of 13, revealing way too much of themselves, and keeping that sort of thing private grows more difficult.

The key is to become aware of how your profile is being used on the Internet early on and to continue to polish your social profile so it will not lose you an opportunity. Have a friend read your tweets and status updates and give you their harshest criticisms. You might be surprised to hear their reactions, and in the hunt for a job, the last thing you want is to discover that your online information is working against you.

We all have lives that include adventures both positive and negative, from parties to break-ups, and everything in between. The key is, if you are going to be a social network junkie, to report what you are doing and how things are going responsibly so that you don’t ever have to answer for the sins of your past.

Good luck on the job hunt, and hopefully your online fingerprint won’t reveal anything that holds you back.

Lindsey Wright says she is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education. Lindsey is a writer for onlinecollegeclasses.com.

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