These days, it can be hard to separate your social media presence from your career. When you’re job searching, the boundaries are particularly blurry. How private or public should your various accounts be? Can your presence on social platforms help your chances of getting a job? If so, how?
In an era when best practices can be difficult to distinguish from the latest digital fads, you’re probably (understandably) uncertain about how to approach your social media presence. The starting point may simply be to notice (and avoid) four common mistakes I see people make in their online profiles:
For many of you, having your own site is probably overkill. While it might be a nice way to stand out in a job search, usually all you need is a clean and polished profile on a third-party platform (such as LinkedIn) to capture your professional accomplishments and connections.
Increasingly, however, job seekers are also freelancing and side-hustling. If you're self-employed, owning your own digital real estate is a chance to make a really great first impression. Whether you’re a freelance writer or an independent graphic designer, a blog or website you call your own allows you to showcase your creativity and personality. Make it attractive and something practical that can do double duty as a fantastic marketing tool.
If your career requires you to make use of technology and the internet, it may actually be preferable to have no professional social media presence (whether your choice be Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) than one that is very outdated. Set a goal for yourself to check that your job title, employer, professional responsibilities and accomplishments are up to date, at least once a year. January is a good time since you've probably just had a performance evaluation and may have even received a promotion.
If you're a true late adopter or finding it difficult to convince yourself to sign up for yet another social media account, remember that it doesn't take much activity or work to set up a bare-bones profile. Doing so allows you to control your brand and the basic facts of how to contact you. Signing up for a service doesn't obligate you to become an expert or super user.
In the era of selfies, there’s no reason anyone needs to have a cropped party photo on their professional social media profile. You don’t have to shell out big bucks for a professional studio shot. Just make sure that the most visited link about you online doesn't involve a beer can or visibly drunk friends in the frame.
You don't need to a be a social media maven in order to make a perfectly fine first impression. Update your public profile photos, make sure your publicly available resume items are up-to-date and delete any embarrassing old photos or Tweets. All of this can be done in a few hours. Even creating a new website to highlight your work doesn’t have to take a lot of time if your visual assets are ready to go.
If you want your colleagues, manager, and future employer to know what you did on Friday night, what your breakfast looked like on Sunday morning and all your political views, we hope you are an influencer or influencer-in-training. For everyone else, there really is such as a thing as too much information.
If you think nobody will be looking, you’re probably wrong. Even if you're not a celebrity, people who meet you for the first time will inevitably conduct a quick internet search if they'll be talking to or meeting you for the first time. There are even applications that automatically do these searches based on who your calendar says you're meeting. This means that people you interact with professionally will inevitably be judging you by your Instagram feed and Tweets. Fair or not, this should inform what you share on social media.
Avoid these common mistakes on your social media profile and you'll be on your way to making a great, first online impression.
A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.
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