Around this time each year, I get inquiries from college students preparing for graduation and eager to enter the workforce. While it’s been a few years since I’ve been a fresh-faced newcomer to the job market, I’m always happy to meet with young people and offer advice.
I typically share with them the 15 Tips to Land That First Job in PR that I developed with some of my colleagues a few years ago. While the information remains relevant, after speaking with a class on professionalism at the Robertson School of Media & Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University this past semester, it became apparent that there needed to be a 16th tip added to this list.
If you’re on the hunt for a job in public relations – or in any field for that matter – consider tip #16:
- Conduct a personal social media audit and do a little housekeeping of your online image.
When an individual reaches out to me to set up an informational interview or inquire about job openings at PadillaCRT, one of the first things I typically do is to check that person’s social media presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social channels. I find this useful for two reasons:
- Does the individual have a social media presence?
- If so, what does the individual’s social media presence say about him or her?
In 2015, I’m surprised by the number of individuals in their 20s that I meet who have little-to-no social media presence. And if they have a social presence, I’m surprised by how inactive some of these individuals are on social networking sites, particularly young people looking to break into highly competitive communications industries.
Social media has become an increasingly important component of what we do as public relations professionals. During the course of my career in PR, I’ve seen social media go from a “what is it” to a “nice to have” to an integral part of our public relations arsenal. Therefore, it’s expected that young people enter the field of public relations with a strong understanding of social media and how it’s applicable to business.
Secondly, your social media presence reveals a great deal about you and the kind of employee you might be. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 51 percent of all employers who use social media for background information on potential employees are finding things that cause them not to hire a candidate. What kinds of online information are employers finding that have kept them from hiring a potential candidate? These should be common sense, but according to CareerBuilder, the top five are:
- Job candidates posting provocative or inappropriate photographs or information – 46 percent
- Job candidates posting information about them drinking or using drugs – 41 percent (You having a adult beverage with friends is one thing, if you are of age. Pictures of you on a total bender is another.)
- Job candidates bad-mouthing their previous company or fellow employees – 36 percent
- Job candidates having poor communications skills – 32 percent (This is particularly important for individuals seeking careers in communications.)
- Job candidates having discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc. – 28 percent
Employers aren’t just searching the social networking sites. According to the survey, 45 percent of employers use search engines, such as Google, to research potential job candidates.
Ever done a little egosurfing on Google? What you find about yourself can sometimes be interesting and surprising.
What’s a person to do to make sure they’re social media ready for a job hunt? Here are a few tips:
- As previously stated, search yourself to see what results come up, including images. You definitely don’t want photos or even political or racy cartoons and memes to convey the wrong message about you. If you find something that could damage your reputation, try to remove it.
- If you have a personal blog, see if it needs any editing or refreshing. The blog will show up in search results. You wouldn’t want something that you posted as an angst-filled or party-hearty freshman to come back to haunt you after graduation.
- Delete any accounts that are inactive. That old MySpace account could have some damaging information on it. Also, having a lot of inactive social media accounts floating around, may convey the message that you’re not that well-versed in social media.
- Most importantly, think before you post. No matter how hard you try to cover your tracks, keep in mind that the Internet is forever.
What other things should job seekers consider about their social media presence?