You’re a university student looking to relax and have some fun in your downtime. So as is the case with so many students you might fill the hours chatting on the social media – Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, and other interesting sites as they become available. Good, harmless fun, right?
Not necessarily. When we get together with friends, even if they’re only cyber friends, we tend to let loose and let the words flow. Most of it is harmless, but there might be some nuggets sprinkled among the banter that could bite you in the pants when you graduate and you’re looking for a job. It’s easy to do when your guard is down.
So many people – high school and college students in particular – have become so comfortable with the social media that they’ve come to view it as a safe, private sandbox. Reality check: the social media is anything but private. Not only is there a great likelihood of some unintended someone seeing what you’ve put out there, but there’s also the ever present possibility that a friend may “share” your message with non-friends.
The reality is that you cannot entirely control everything you put out on the social media. And that can be a problem when the job hunt begins. Employers are now routinely checking the social media profiles of new job applicants.
How will yours look, and what can you do to control what it is you’re putting out there that may reach unintended eyes?
The world doesn’t need to know EVERYTHING about you
Have you ever spilled your guts about something very personal to a friend, only to hear them respond with, “T.M.I.!” (too much information)? It’s often true in the social media. It’s easier than we think to share too much information there.
The world doesn’t need to know everything about you. And often times it doesn’t want to know as much information as you’re giving it. You can think that you’re simply being transparent and genuine – or even honest – but some information should not be shared with others. This is especially true on the world wide web, where certain information – usually the most embarrassing variety – can take on a life of its own.
Be careful putting out information about your relationships, especially the gory details. No one needs to know about your bad childhood. You don’t need to disclose a juvenile arrest in your past. Avoid sharing your deepest fears and insecurities too. While it might feel like a welcome relief for you to be able share your feelings, you have to consider the impact this will have should a future employer happen to read it.
Stay away from rants
We all have things, people, and situations that tick us off. It’s perfectly fine to blow off a little steam in a live conversation with friends over a cup of coffee. But it’s quite another to put it in print and on the internet. That kind of stuff has a way of becoming part of your permanent profile, and it may not speak well of you when the stakes are higher.
If it’s one personality type that employers don’t like, it’s a malcontent. You may not even be one, but again there’s always the tendency to let loose when we’re on a keyboard sitting in front of a computer. Avoid sounding off about your parents, your professors, or even the entire university itself. Too much complaining – especially if it’s in black and white – could make an employer sense that you may be trouble waiting to happen.
Limit your comments on the political front
We should be able say whatever we want when it comes to politics. After all, there’s freedom of speech, isn’t there?
Yes you are free to say what you want, even on the internet. But if you often sound off coming from a distinct political angle – one that is not consistent with that of an interviewer or potential boss – it could interfere with your candidacy for the job, maybe even many jobs. No, it shouldn’t be that way, but in the real world it often is. It’s fine to discuss politics in a constructive way, but be careful of making extreme pronouncements, especially those that are particularly hostile toward those of a different political persuasion.
This is also true for any thoughts you have on race, religion, or any other divisive issues. You’re human, and we all have biases, but you don’t need to put them out there for the whole world to see. A day of reckoning can come on this very issue.
“One picture is worth a thousand words”
Even worse than making potentially damaging comments are the photos that we put out on the web. There is far greater potential for a compromising photo to make it all around the world than there is for anything you might write. A single explicit photo could easily find a permanent home on one or more unsavory websites.
Make sure that any photos you put on any site or social media on the web are in good taste. You can even use the “parent test” – as in, how will I feel if my parents see this? If that makes you uncomfortable, then it’s probably something you won’t want a future employer to see either.
It’s okay to have fun and to push the envelope a bit in the social media, but you’re adult now and the rules are changing – fast. Once you’re out looking for a job you will begin to fully appreciate the restraint you used in your social media activities while you were still in school.
You can do something about that right now.
Do you ever worry that you have a few things in your social media profile that could come back and hurt you later?
(photo from Flickr by fredcavazza)