We are so quick to post a picture or what we think since we have a device in the palm of our hands almost every second of the day. Sometimes, we are sharing what we are doing with our friends on Instagram, sometimes we are sharing funny videos on Facebook, and sometimes we are ranting on Twitter. But have you ever stopped to think about what prospective or current employers are thinking when they see what you are sharing on social media? Do you think they like what they see? Will they believe you are the same person you say you are in your cover letter or interview? Some posts you share may be a red flag for the employer looking at your social media accounts.
In my opinion, Facebook is Google for people if you want to know exactly what someone is like. There are countless times when I have looked a person up via Facebook or another social media site to get an idea of who they are. It is not hard to do at all, and most people are over-sharing their lives on the web so you can find basically anything about them. I know I am not the only one looking others up like this either; employers are looking you up to see what you are posting. They are looking to see if you are representing yourself and their brand in a respectful way.
Let’s start with the sharing of pictures. These days, people are very engaged by pictures. Personally, I am more inclined to stop and look at a post that has a picture in it. But do you think an employer wants to see you partying or drinking? Especially when it comes to underage drinking or being unprofessional at work functions. It may seem “cool” to post a picture doing these things, but it could actually hurt you in the end. Making sure you keep your photos dry and modest is imperative and shows you are responsible. However, they also want to see you are a personable person and can have fun. Just know when to draw the line.
Next, we have the sharing of videos, memes, and articles. What you share or retweet is mainly showcasing your views, sense of humor, and personality. There’s nothing wrong with a few cat videos here and there (who am I kidding, though, I love a good cat video, so share away). But make sure the videos and memes are tasteful and not disrespectful to anyone. For example, the election just ended, and many people with strong political views were sharing vulgar content. Your views are your views but know how to share them appropriately and profoundly. Moreover, always check the date and source you are sharing. Stories should be up-to-date and factual, so your followers and friends are being fed the right kind of information. This shows you care about the latest news and reliable sources.
Lastly, we have ranting on social media. I wish I had a dollar for every time I saw a ranting post; I would not be required to work ever again (though I still would). I cannot say I have never done it before on social media in my high school days (I really didn’t know any better), but it is something I learned can get you in trouble. We see social media as an outlet to get the anger out and hope whoever sees it will care. But the truth is, they don’t. And employers are not going to like that you cannot control how you feel. They are going to see the negative posts as a major red flag, and it will make you look like a not very fun or trustworthy person to work with.
There are a few things you can do to avoid negative and passive-aggressive posts on social media. The first is to remember to promote what you love, not what you hate. The second is remind yourself to think more positively. If you are always telling yourself to think positive, it will become a habit. I always try to think of two positive things every time I think of one negative thing. For example, if a situation does not go a certain way as I expected, I tell myself, “this is just a learning experience,” or “just breathe, things could be worse.” I find it really helps to look on the bright side. The third and best action to do the next time you feel like ranting is to close your social media apps and call someone you trust to vent. You’ll feel better, and your social media will look a lot better.
Now, you are probably asking yourself, “But why should I hide who I am?” or, “Well, my accounts are private, so why does this matter?” or, “I have an account for the public and an individual account for friends, so I’m all right, right?”. Well, you should not have to hide who you are. In the PR world, we have to be open about everything, including who we are. We have to have open, honest, and consistent communication on our personal accounts just as much as our work accounts.
If your accounts are locked, employers are probably going to wonder what you are hiding. You may believe you are keeping yourself safe from stalkers (which I totally get), but at the same, it is about being mindful of when and how you are sharing the posts. For example, do not share your location in a post until after you have left that place if you are scared of someone stalking you. Accounts like Facebook, allow you to only make content visible to people who you are friends with on the site and make it so others who you are not friends with can only see your profile picture, and not any other posts, personal information, or past profile pictures. I find it is all right to do this on Facebook since there is a chance your family sees everything and it can be more a more personal account. But on other social media accounts, I believe a public account is more beneficial.
Employers are going to want to see that you are going to be a good person to work with and be around. You are your own brand and everything you share, represents you and who you are. Making an effort to clean out all of the bad pictures, deleting unnecessary posts, and anything negative is the first step. But remember, once it is on the Internet, it is not actually gone. But the best thing you can do at this point is to be better and start cleaning up all the bad and start promoting the good.
In the end, be yourself, but be the best version of yourself, not only on social media but in person. Employers and others will admire that.