Social media plays a big part in all our lives.
For some of us it’s all about having fun, following trends and catching up with friends.
For others it’s how we earn a living.
But, no matter who or where you are, those status updates could be having more of an impact on your future career than you think.
Today, it’s very common for employers to google your name and check your social media before or after they hire you.
So what would they find if they loaded up your profile today?
And remember, it’s not an invasion of privacy if you’ve made everything public for them to see….
We’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts to help you learn the social media rules and get the most from it without giving too much away. But first, take a look at this video for some advice on maintaining basic hygiene on social media:
Lots of people swear on social media, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. If a current or potential employer sees a load of expletives on your profile, they won’t be impressed. According to Jobvite, more than two thirds of employers list swearing as one of their top three things to avoid on social media.
DON'T: Make all your photos public
Friends and family have a habit of tagging embarrassing photos. Keep your photo feed or Instagram private and that crazy party / embarrassing childhood photo won’t be the first thing that comes up on an image search of your name.
DON'T: Make offensive comments or threats
Don’t forget that when you post on social media, you are publishing content. If you make a threat towards someone, lie or say something nasty, even if it’s a joke, you could get in serious trouble, with your school, your employer or even the law.
DON'T: Post your debit card details
Hard to believe but there is Twitter account dedicated to people who take photos of their debit and credit cards and post them online. You might love the design on your new debit card, but if you broadcast your digits, even without the security code, you make it oh so easy for crooks to steal your money and you don’t come across as someone who can be trusted looking after confidential information…
DON'T: Publicly complain about your boss / teacher
Had a bad day at work or school? Phone a friend, don’t post about it online. People have lost their jobs for criticising their bosses online (yes they do bother to check your Facebook). It’s unprofessional and the law will usually be on the side of your employer.
DON'T: Forget it only takes a second to take a screen shot
So you sent an impulsive Snapchat or posted a dodgy comment online and then decided to take it down. No problem right? Never underestimate how quickly someone can take a screenshot of your offending tweet / photo / post and send it right back out there for the world to see.
DO: Check your spelling
If it’s worth broadcasting to the entire planet then it’s worth spelling correctly. And remember, if your spelling fail is epic enough, you could become famous for all the wrong reasons as Gemma Worrall discovered when she spectacularly misspelled the US President’s name. (She also mistakenly thought he was president of the UK, but she might have got away with it if she had got his name right…)
DO: Clean up your account
If you’re job hunting at the moment, have a look back through your past Twitter and Facebook posts. If you spot anything on the don’t list, even if it’s more than a year old, then delete it. Teenager Paris Brown may have put her badly judged tweeting days behind her when she took up the job of youth commissioner, but they were still there for journalists to find and it cost her her job.
DO: Share your interests
Use social media to discuss your interests positively and show off your knowledge, whether it’s music, film, science or politics. Sharing useful posts will make your account look professional and authoritative. You might make some useful contacts too.
DO: Use social media to look for jobs and work experience
Companies regularly advertise jobs and work experience through social media. Follow employers on Twitter and Facebook and search for relevant hashtags like #job #apprenticeship. Get on Linkedin, join Google+ communities, share your blogs, knowledge and ideas and keep an eye out for opportunities.
For more information about finding work experience using social media, check out some of the posts on our Advice pages.
DO: Keep some things private
If you feel like having a rant about your day on social media or posting personal info, make sure that your account has some privacy settings in place. And don’t forget who is on your friends list as this young office complainer did!
DO: Brush up on social media and the law
Should I be tweeting about that celeb courtroom drama? Is it OK to make a joke about something in the news? It’s important to know when funny comments and criticism can step over the line. Check out thesite.org’s excellent guide to social networking and the law.
Take a look at this infographic from On the Hill for a visual reminder of the key points (right click and select "Open image in new tab" to see it full size):
So you've impressed some employers with your CV, cover letter and spotless social media profile! Now find out how to succeed in the all-important job interview.
Lead image by MK Marketing