As someone who was in elementary school when social media was really starting to take off, I grew up hearing warnings against sharing personal information on the internet. While I obviously think you shouldn’t go around tweeting your address or sharing passwords on Instagram, there are benefits to being willing to get a little personal with the World Wide Web.
Take this blog, which I’ve had since my first semester of college, for example: I’m a very different person from who I was in the fall of 2015 and I’ve been open about sharing that growth here. Prospective employers can tour this blog to see samples of my work and get to know me as a person. Over the last couple years, I’ve been learning how to balance showing my personality with maintaining a professional, appropriate persona.
Maintaining an online presence is important for young professionals because it is now very common for employers to scan candidates’ social media profiles for information (and red flags). Keeping my Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all updated regularly while still paying attention to this blog isn’t easy, and you’ll notice there are several gaps of time where I haven’t published blogs at all. You’ll probably see another gap once I’m back in school and adjusting to my fall schedule later this month.
*Brief pause while I agonize about how the start of school is this. month.*
My online presence was the reason I got my first internship last spring with Indiana Futsal. I had made an account with Indiana INTERNnet and my resume was clearly visible for companies to see. Justin Becht, the director of Indiana Futsal, shot me a message about a potential internship and we got coffee together. A year and a half later, I’m still helping out that organization and that relationship has developed to the point where I am officially considered the director of Indiana Futsal’s PR efforts. If I hadn’t put my resume online, I may never have found that job!
Just this week, I received an email from the editor of GRAD, a publication by IBJ Media and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, who wants to publish one of my blogs that I originally wrote for Indiana INTERNnet. Every blog I write has my name displayed next to it, claiming ownership, and now I have been offered a cool opportunity to have a piece published in an additional place as a result.
So, how do you put yourself out there – your work, your ideas, your passions – in a way that is authentically you but also professional? Here are my top three tips:
#1: The coffee meeting rule
Before you post something online, ask yourself, “Would I be willing to say this someone over coffee, out loud, in a public space?” This is a great rule to use not only to understand what is and what is not appropriate, but it can also help you get a better understanding of yourself and your values. If you just met a person, what types of things would you say them over a cup o’ joe to give them an accurate picture of who you are? If you’re going to share an opinion – go for it! Just be sure you’d be willing to back it up in person.
#2: Be smart about your use of language
There are certain situations where expletives are necessary, like when you stub your toe on the kitchen table, but social media posts are not bodily injuries. If you flood your tweets with swear words, that’s totally fine, but I’m probably not going to retweet them because like it or not, these words are considered unprofessional. There are ways to get your point across that sound better than relying on expletives, which are really just filler words. Get creative!
This tip doesn’t just go for so-called bad words. It’s also about putting your proofreading skills to the test. Read everything you write before you post it. If it’s something that you really put a lot of time into, like a blog post, have a buddy who’s willing proofread things for you. Putting messages riddled with errors out into the universe doesn’t look great to employers – or to that grammar snob on your friends list. Avoid embarrassments by developing a keen eye for spelling and grammar. (After saying that, let’s hope I don’t have any typos on this post.)
#3: Keep it consistent
There are levels of professionalism associated with all websites and social media apps. Twitter and Facebook are generally more casual than LinkedIn, and Instagram can really be whatever you make it. However, you shouldn’t have a completely different personality on each of these apps.
If you’re posting hot mess photos from the club on one app and politely asking a company about job openings on another, you’re making things unnecessarily complicated for yourself and increasing the likelihood that you’re going to post the wrong thing to the wrong site. If you’re all about that #ClubLife there’s nothing wrong with that, but you should understand how to balance things out so that if a hiring manager comes across your Insta they won’t be caught off guard.