By Alexis M. Davis, a junior public relations major in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Back in high school we were all warned to clean up our Facebook profiles when the time came to apply to institutes of higher education. We did not want admissions counselors deciding our fate before recognizing our promising test scores, many extracurricular activities and, most importantly, our high grades. As students who successfully made it to the next level, we must recognize the need to continue to keep an eye on our online presence, especially at this crucial time for the summer 2012 internship hunt.
In the past few years we have seen an increase in the number of social media platforms available for use and must now ensure all of our pages and profiles are clean and properly updated. Here are a few tips for handling your online reputation:
Begin by branding yourself
No matter if you are interested in broadcast journalism, public relations or general newspaper reporting, it is always a great idea to have a portfolio to display your work and make a name for yourself online. Start slow by making a blog on WordPress, Blogger or even Tumblr to get your ideas out there. Also be sure you have a LinkedIn profile and that it is updated every time you update your résumé. Finally, consider setting up a website to display your writing samples or television clips in one place. Wix and Weebly are free tools anyone can use to get a site up and running.
Personal vs. professional feeds
If you are having trouble separating your private and public life on Twitter, consider having one for friends and peers and another for family, professors and when seeking jobs and internships. Let’s face it, potential employers do not want to see students using outrageous hashtags and tweeting about how crazy the weekend was with friends even though you have an exam on Monday that you have not studied for. If this sounds like you, try changing your image by making your personal page private and leaving your professional page public. To make things simple, use your first and last name for your professional Twitter and list any titles you have in the description area.
Check your profiles with Socioclean
If you want another set of eyes to check your social media sites, try using Socioclean. The site will scan your pages, point out potentially damaging comments on your wall and photo albums and also check your tweets for foul language. The program will then give you a grade based on your professional online presence. Check and see if your school’s career services department has offered this tool.
Use common sense
Remember that anything you put on the Internet is there forever. If you are preparing to post something and think an employer, your mother, or even your future children would be ashamed at its existence, hit delete immediately! Nothing is worse than having the past come back to haunt you, so it is best to assume everyone is always watching.