Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest may be fun places to hang out, but did you know they’re also great places to grow — or completely ruin — a career? It’s true: a whopping 77% of employers use social media to find candidates, while (perhaps more troubling) 20% of them use these platforms to screen out candidates as well.
That means that if you’re concerned only with the personal aspects of your social media profile, you may be killing your career without even meaning to. Here’s how.
1. You Overshare (Or Don’t Share Enough)
No one wants to know the ins and outs of every meal you eat, how hard you partied last night, or every excruciating detail about your recent gall bladder surgery — not your friends, and certainly not employers. A good rule of thumb here is to think about what you would be comfortable saying to your boss or potential employers in person. If it seems like TMI, it probably is.
However, don’t let this advice scare you away from posting at all. In fact, regular updates are key to growing your following and building your expertise on social media platforms. Plus, you look plain out of touch when an employer stumbles upon your barren account, which hasn’t been updated in months. Don’t make an account unless you’re actually going to use it – and make sure to shutter any old social media accounts that you no longer use.
2. Your Friends Know No Boundaries
Even if you’ve got your social media etiquette in order, your friends may not. That’s a big problem if they post inappropriate updates or photos and tag you, so make sure that your privacy settings are such that they can’t do any of this.
And while we’re on the topic of friends, on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s important to grow your following strategically for another reason, too: networking. Joining interest groups, getting added to Twitter lists and engaging with people in your industry is a great way to establish your expertise and foster connections that might later land you jobs.
3. Your Posts Are All Over The Place
I don’t mean this in a good viral kind of way. I mean that your posts have absolutely no theme to connect them. This is a turnoff for followers, who may be interested in one of your favorite topics but not all of them, and it’s also a lost branding opportunity. Social media, after all, is a great place to establish yourself as an expert in your field — and you can only do that by focusing on the contents of your posts. If that’s too limited, you can always make, say, separate Twitter accounts for separate topics.
4. You Don’t Engage In Conversations
Regardless of how it might sometimes seem, social media isn’t about you, you, you. If this is the mentality that’s guiding your posts, you’re likely turning off employers, as you’re not demonstrating excellent interpersonal skills. Again, this is also not ideal for growing your following or even establishing your expertise. Instead, participate in real, engaging back and forth conversations so that you can show fellow industry professionals and potential employers what you can do, rather than telling them.
5. You Don’t Have Your Privacy Settings Sorted
Even if you keep everything PG, it’s generally a good idea to keep your privacy settings pretty tight, especially on Facebook, which tends to be more personal in nature. You might, for instance, create a list for work contacts so that you can restrict the amount of photos they see both overall and as you select who you want to share each post with. Facebook’s privacy policies change all the time, so keep up to date on their latest changes to ensure once you’ve got this setup that your personal profile is still as private as you think it is.
6. Your Profiles Aren’t Searchable
That said, when you are actively looking for a job, social media is a great place to get found. To do this, make sure you fully fill out your profile on all platforms, using career keywords as you go, and ensure the essential aspects of your profile are publicly available to all who might seek you out.
7. Your Personal And Work Emails Are One And The Same
If the email address you’re using to apply for jobs is the same as the one you used to sign up for your social media accounts, your employer will easily find this using job search software and can pull a fair amount of data right into their system. Again, keeping work and play separate, even at the level of email addresses, is essential for guarding your privacy.
Used strategically, social media is an immensely powerful platform for growing your career. Used the wrong way, and it just might ruin it. Lock down your privacy settings, think before you tweet, and start connecting with influencers, and you’ll have (or keep) your dream job in no time.