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With summer internships just around the corner, now is the time to evaluate your social media presence. In a digital culture that emphasizes posting your highlight reel on Instagram, it’s a good idea to rethink not only how you want to portray yourself on social media, but also how you want potential colleges and employers to perceive you and your brand. In the current job-search climate, scouring a candidate’s social media pages is considered fair game. In fact, in 2o19, 36% of admissions officers (Kaplan, 2020) and 70% of employers reported visiting potential candidates’ social media pages. In 2020, that 70% jumped to 98% of employers (The Manifest, 2020).
So, what can you do to ensure that you’re putting your best digital foot forward?
For starters, take inventory of your personal online presence. What social media or discussion platforms do you use? Instagram? Twitter? Facebook? Reddit? Are there any accounts you used years ago that may still be active? Decide which accounts are important to keep and delete the rest. Conduct a Google search of yourself. What comes up? Whatever you see, anyone can see.
Consider adjusting your privacy settings. Ask yourself if there is anything you have posted online that you would be comfortable sharing with an employer, future employer, or college admissions counselor. Unless you don’t mind everyone having access to your Instagram stories, switch your account to private mode. On Facebook, use the “Limit Past Posts” option in account settings (you may have old Facebook posts you’ve forgotten about). Delete any old photos, videos, and tweets that could potentially put you in a compromising situation.
So should you lock down all your social media accounts? Not necessarily. While it’s not required to have a public profile for every account, not having any online presence can raise a red flag to some employers. Both Facebook (the largest social network in the world with over 2.7 billion active users) and LinkedIn (the largest professional network with over 800 million users) are ideal platforms to showcase your personal and professional brand.
Once you decide which accounts you are going to keep public, be mindful of your activity. Having awareness about your social media footprint and the traces of yourself you leave behind in each post are important things to consider. Don’t post photos or videos of you taking part in certain activities or tweeting (or retweeting) questionable content that could put you in a negative light in the eyes of current or potential employers. Watch your words, and watch what you’re tagged in as well.
A positive online presence can only help you. Not only does it paint a picture of you, but the intention in building it requires analytical and critical thinking. Like it or not, your online presence matters. Take advantage of thoughtfully and effectively using social media to portray the image you want to present to the world.