If you’re fresh out of undergrad those photos of you flaunting your bikini body, red cup in hand and that tweet slamming your totally unfair professor may seem pretty benign. Everyone has those things on their social media profiles, right? However, what was okay to have on your profile during your college years may not be totally acceptable as you transition into the real world and start searching for jobs.
Luckily, it’s not too late to clean up your profiles. Moreover, there are several resources available online with tips and tricks on how to effectively do that. For instance, CNBC has an article that outlines how to avoid career-killing social media mistakes; Time identifies ten social media blunders that could cost you your job; and Security News Desk summarizes how you can better manage your online presence.
But if you don’t have time to read all of those articles, here are some things to keep in mind when tending to your social media accounts.
You can make your security settings private but you can’t hide
People often think that, just because they have their privacy settings set to ultra private, they can post whatever content they want and only the people they want to see it will see it. However, things you post can still be shared and anyone can see your tagged images with a little digging. Regardless of your privacy settings, you should always be representing the best of you on all of your social media platforms.
Profiles are the new resume
Do not lie about your work experience on your social media. Egregious misrepresentations are obviously not okay but small elaborations can also be dangerous.
This means don’t fudge your experience and skills on social media. Few things will be more embarrassing than when a recruiter asks you about a skill you have according to your LinkedIn but you can’t give an example of when you utilized that skill. If your LinkedIn lists STATA as one of your skills and you aren’t familiar with it, take it off your profile or learn how to use it. Be up front, it is not worth it to lie.
Non-millennials are not social media inept
Your boss may be a baby boomer but that does not mean they, or a recruiter or someone else within the organization, isn’t fully capable of vetting your social media. Always assume that someone from work is looking.
As a result keep a few rules of thumb in mind, including do not complain about your boss or job, don’t post while you’re supposed to be working, and refrain from making fun of your coworkers. Additionally, if you are going to play hooky from work one day, don’t post about the awesome time you’re having at the beach when you are supposed to be sick in bed.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Each of your profile pictures should be appropriate for the platform. While a group picture may be fine for Facebook, you should have a professional looking head shot on your LinkedIn.
Overall, pictures of you in compromising situations should not be posted on your social media. Drinking pictures walk a fine line – some say a tactful picture of you wine tasting is more than okay, while others err on the side of caution and suggest you keep all drinking pictures off social media. Use your discretion.
Finally, remember that your friends may not have the same impeccable discretion as you. In those cases, the untag button is your best friend.
Your sunglasses are the only things that should be polarized
Advocating for one side of the aisle is typical, especially in Washington. However, be mindful of how you present your political, religious and overall polarizing views on social media. If you are going to publically take a stance on a controversial issue, be thoughtful of how you present your position and be sure not to include offensive language or derogatory comments aimed at the other side.
In the same vein, keep your posts positive and treat people in online interactions they way you want to be treated. Your social media is your brand and even if you disclose your views are your own, you are inherently a representative of your company. Keep this in mind when going to tweet about someone or post a status about the latest political debate.
Looks like you may have some cleaning up to do now! For even more information on how to keep your social media up to professional standards check out these articles by Muse, The Huffington Post, and The Chicago Tribune. And as always, if you have any tips that weren’t covered here please share your wisdom with us in the comments.
This post is part of GovLoop’s millennial blog series, First 5.