Employer-proof your social media

It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. After a particularly eventful night out with your friends, where your behaviour was less than ideal, a photo emerges on Monday morning on social media that you’d never hope to see there (and you certainly can’t remember). Social media damage control is in order.

Besides the odd scandalous photo, which you can hopefully delete before your boss sees it, social media tells a story about you that will either impress or dismay future and current employers.

Here are some ways to ensure that your social media profile portrays yourself exactly as you would like your employer to see it.

Keep personal and professional very, very separate

This is the most obvious tip of all. Most people know that employers can, and often will, scour social media pages of prospective employees to find out a bit more about the person they may want to hire. Similarly, employers will keep tabs on their employees through social media – because they can.

  • The first step is to ensure that you operate your personal profiles and professional profiles separately, and that never the two shall meet. Consider making your private accounts just that, private – so that they’re not publicly accessible.

  • Even so, when your boss requests to follow you, it may be rude to not accept. So, it’s key to ensure that both your professional and personal pages portray you in a positive light. Does your personal Facebook page only show a profile photo of you with your puppy, your cute niece, or doing something wholesome in the great outdoors? Perfect. Does it show an old photo straight from first year university? Time to update it, fast.

  • When posting, adopt a personal filter to anything which is based on, “would my mum be embarrassed by this”? If she would, then don’t go there.

  • Revisit your privacy settings to ensure unwanted information is locked way, way out of sight. Adjust if needed, and then do a “view only” or similar check of your page. Still unsure? Just ask someone who is not friends with you on that page to check what they can see.

  • Monitor all your social media pages regularly. If a friend tags you in a well-meaning but mildly offensive meme on a professional page that could make an employer think twice about you, then you need to know it’s there and remove it ASAP.

Clean up your history

Even if you’ve just entered the workplace and established a professional online presence, don’t lose sight of the past. Every photo or comment you’ve posted on social media is still lurking somewhere, and could be found by a current or prospective employer with a simple Google scan. How do you dig out those unwanted images and comments from your teenage years and bury them in a deep hole?

  • Run an online scan to identify potentially problematic photos of you. There are programmes available to do this. Or simply type in your name and see what appears.

  • Take time to scroll through your pages – particularly the last few years. Delete or hide any photos you don’t want seen, and sift through your updates and statuses to remove the ones that said things like “so hungover today”.

So what can I post?

Having safely locked your personal online profiles away so you and your friends can continue to share rude memes and photos from fun nights out, it’s time to consider what you CAN post on your professional pages.

  • Anything work-related that reflects your motivation, willingness to work or professional development, such as attending events or courses is great.

  • Share an interesting discussion, news or development in your industry and respond to comments on this.

  • Consider material that will show a bit of your personality, in a positive way. Are you volunteering somewhere on your days off? By all means, share a photo (but don’t skite). Did you just summit a significant mountain, win a race, become a parent? Post (but don’t spam) a snapshot of that too.

  • Reach out to others in your industry by posting a message of congratulations on a promotion, award or otherwise.

  • Is it you that’s received the award? Post that too, but be humble. Thanking your team or those giving the award is always a nice way to go about it.

And, never, never, never post anywhere about something fun you’re doing on a ‘sick’ day – career death moment.

Social media is your CV

Consider your social media pages as your CV, and follow the same rules. What does that mean?

  • Check your spelling and grammar. A long, rambling post without commas or other punctuation won’t impress anyone, let alone your boss.

  • Filter your material. Are you posting a lot about contentious issues, such as politics that could adversely reflect on you in the workplace? By all means have an opinion, but keep it to your personal pages.

  • Just like a CV, lying never pays. When listing your employment history on LinkedIn, stick to the truth, and if the list is long, stick to what is relevant.