Managing Your Social Media Presence

On August 18, 2014 by Grad Forum

social_media_thumbnailGoogle your name. See what comes up. Why? Because if you are in the market for a new job, employers are trying to find out everything they can about you. Before someone is hired, many companies must do a complete internet search. Usually, companies check before they conduct interviews so not to waste time on unprofessional candidates.

As a graduate student on the job market, how can you make sure your social media presence does not eliminate you from the applicant pool? First, you need to have a professional social media presence. Some graduate students try to avoid all social media by choice, but to employers, that may reflect a lack of tech savviness, something that is necessary in today’s job market.

For those who do use social media sites, here are some simple guidelines:

  • Review everything you can find about yourself online.
  • Check to make sure your Facebook profile only allows your friends to view your page.
  • Make sure your profile has G-rated information on it only: Employers know you like to have fun, but they are not assessing your ability to have a good time. Instead, they are evaluating your use of good judgment on what you choose to reveal about yourself to the world.
  • Your Facebook picture should look professional: This means fully clothed. No alcohol. No cigarettes. No french fries hanging out of your nose. Watch for plunging necklines and revealing hems.
  • What you select to “like” also says a lot about you: Liking topics related to your profession or hobbies is fine… as long as it is not co-ed naked lacrosse. As an employer, I do not need, or want, to know this about a future employee, especially if they are going to be working with college students.

Many graduate students still use Facebook, but LinkedIn is what most professionals now use for networking. If you are on the job market, make sure to create a LinkedIn account. Again, use a professional picture (not one of you in a bathing suit at the beach or you and your kids). Put effort into writing up your summary of qualifications. People will read these and look at your ability to both market yourself and your writing skills. LinkedIn offers many professional groups, which you may consider joining to get started networking. And it is a good idea to look at other people’s profiles in industries and organizations that you are interested in working in to get an idea of how they present themselves.

If you write a blog, especially if it is a personal blog, look objectively at what it says about you. Is there anything there that would prevent an employer from hiring you? One job applicant I was reviewing for a position described in an online blog (in detail) the pain she felt when her boyfriend cheated on her with her best friend. While I recognize everyone has life challenges, it made me question her ability to present herself and the office professionally.

It is great to have a Twitter following, just make sure that what you tweet cannot be misconstrued out of context. It often surprises graduate students that employers are looking at their personal posts. But what is posted on social media is not considered personal once it is out in cyberspace. Tweeting that you feel your “advisor is a narcissist” may allow you to vent after a bad day, but to future employers it sends a message that you may be difficult to work with, or at the very least, that you do not know how to deal with difficult people professionally in the workplace.

Pictures of you on Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook depicting yourself winning awards, presenting a poster, helping an undergraduate in the lab, or volunteering can help your candidacy for a position. However, looking bleary-eyed and hung-over only hurts you. While employers know college students and graduate students may drink on occasion, it is all about evaluating your judgment. Search committees want to know you will be responsible when working with students and clients.

Your social media should reflect the professional image you present on your cover letter and résumé or CV. Believe it or not, many employers are looking for a reason not to hire you, so do not let your social media presence prevent you from being offered your dream job! And if you want to keep that dream job, make sure to continually monitor your social media presence so that what you do and say online positively reflects the company or university you work for.

by Kerry Landers

Image courtesy of Flickr, Jason Howie


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