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Graduated & Starting a Career?: Time to Clean Up Your Social Footprint
The following was written by JT Ripton, a writer who has contributed to Teach.com, Apartments.com, CollegeRecruiter.com, and other sites. He can be reached on Twitter at @JTRipton.
So you've graduated college and are getting ready to head out into the world. Sure, your university days might have been a little wild, but now, with the ink still drying on your bachelor's, you are ready to enter the workforce as a mature and responsible adult.
Not so fast. In today's digital, interconnected world, there is one last exam that you need to pass before you can get that dream job: cleaning up your social media profile. These days, everyone to whom you send a resume is going to be checking your accounts; and, unless you really want them to see you doing keg-stands, you're going to need to control your image. Here are some tips to get you started.
Start your hunt in the most general way possible by running a search engine check on yourself. If you have a common name, put other identifying info in the search string, such as the city in which you live or the university that you attended. If any results pop up that you may not want a potential employer to see, contact the site hosting the offending item and ask (nicely) to have it removed.
Adjust Your Facebook Privacy
When you were in your glory days, you may have left your Facebook privacy settings open so that friends of friends of friends could gaze upon your awesomeness more easily. Those days are over. Tinker with your account settings to restrict things such as who can see your posts, who can access your pictures, and whether or not search engines can index your content.
Here's a fun exercise: Take a look through your photos on your various accounts. Pretend to be an HR officer. Ask yourself: Would I hire the person in this image, or the person who chose to share this image? If the answer is no, perhaps you shouldn't be hosting that tasteless, inappropriately dressed selfie of yourself anymore. Pay particular attention to profile pictures; while social media outlets give you tools to restrict who can access your profiles, your avatar is often viewable regardless of your settings.
Cut the Dead Weight
Remember last year when you signed up for that new, hot Facebook alternative? Remember how you set up your account, loaded a couple of pictures, and never signed in again? Consider pruning your online profile by cancelling the accounts that you no longer use. It can be hard to know how potential employers will react to various things, and limiting your exposure is a good survival strategy. Plus, dead accounts can lead to hijacking, which then creates a trail of bad content with your identity attached.
Clean Your Blogs, Too
This one, while related to other entries, deserves special attention because of the personal nature of many blogs, not to mention the ease with which they can be found. If you've used a blog to vent personal feelings, express strong opinions about controversial subjects, or just to try out new and creative swears, you might need to go back through your posts and trim out the danger-zone ones. If you're unsure if a post is a bad idea, ask yourself: Does this blog entry seem like the careful writings of a thoughtful person or the deranged scribbling of a lunatic?
Use Pen Names
If you want to continue to share your thoughts and feelings freely with your online friends, consider a secondary account under a false name. Just be sure that you keep the secondary account quarantined from your real-name versions; if @johnsmith is always retweeting @bronyking555's fanart, it becomes pretty clear that there's a connection there.
The most important thing, though, is to make sure that your posting is squeaky-clean going forward. Damage control is well and good, but not being damaged in the first place is the savvier strategy. If you never post anything questionable, you'll never have to engage in a last-minute emergency Internet scrubbing again.
These days, checking out someone's background is as easy as pressing a few buttons on your android smartphone. Be sure that you take an active hand in shaping your online persona. It may seem like a pain now, but the alternative is much worse.