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20+ Social Media Do’s and Don'ts Every College Grad Should Know

Recent grads, social media is a part of your daily life, right? Proceed with caution and it could help you land your dream job. [TWEET]

In today's world, people might look at you like you're from outer space if you don't have some sort of social media presence, especially if they're under the age of 30. From Facebook and Instagram to Twitter and LinkedIn, there are numerous social media platforms that allow us to like, share, post, react, network, and reach a large (or small) audience in the blink of an eye. Social media has amazingly made the world a much smaller place, bringing family, friends, and strangers together in such a way that would not have been possible a little more than a decade ago—from around the globe and across the oceans, east to west, and north to south. This ease to reach people through social media also means it's easier for others to find and research your day-to-day habits and online brand, including prospective employers.

Per a 2014 post on Capterra, 73 percent of candidates ages 18 to 34 used a social network to find their last job. Further, a survey conducted by CareerBuilder showed that close to half of all employers research job candidates on social media networking sites and rejected candidates for certain behaviors. Many employers use social media to monitor their current employees, as well. Stats like these indicate that, if you're smart about it, social media can be used to land your next job, or, if you're not smart about it, it can be used to eliminate you from the candidate pool altogether. Be smart with your social media profiles and understand what your online presence indicates about you, especially if you're looking to land your first job after graduating.

Below are some do’s and dont's (including social media mistakes) to think twice about before submitting your resume to any employer, as well as tips on how to behave on social media after an employer hires you. Use them to build your personal branding strategy in a positive, not negative, way.

Before you begin applying to jobs:

Do: Keep it G-rated. Even if set to private, certain components of your profile can be seen by the public, for example, your profile and cover photos. With that said, keep them G-rated with no signs of booze or nudity (a major social media mistake). Essentially, this could be the first impression an employer has of you outside of your resume. The same CareerBuilder survey referenced above showed that employers rejected candidates with profiles showing evidence of drinking or drug use, provocative images, or comments that could be interpreted as sexist, racist, or ageist.

Do: Clean up your image and online brand. Not only do posts from this day forward matter, but your past posts do, too. Go through your profiles and remove any past images that might be considered x-rated or show you doing anything illegal. Also, do a double-check to make sure everything about you is up-to-date and consistent throughout all of your social sites. For your personal branding strategy, you want information about you to match what's on your resume and what you might share in your interviews about your education, location, and so on.

Do: Be proactive and thought-provoking. Share posts and content that relates to your industry and field via social media. This will show professionalism and help to build your professional online brand and expertise. It will also catch the attention of prospective employers when they research your online profiles. Keep this type of activity up after you’re employed to continue building your online credibility and expert status.

Do: Research before you comment or share. On more than one occasion, people have shared stories or articles just to find out later that they were proven to be false. This is a common social media mistake. Even high profile journalists and news stations have been known to post or share stories that turned out to be false in the end. Do your research to determine if a news story is true before you share, especially if it's a high-profile type of story.  

Do: Think twice before you post that selfie. Plenty of studies have been done showing that social media breeds or exacerbates narcissistic-like behavior, and posting lots and lots of selfies of yourself might be taken as an indicator of such behavior. An employer might think twice about hiring someone that appears to be too self-involved or exhibits this type of activity.

Do: Set it to private and monitor your settings. Set your personal social media profiles to private, so you can be the gatekeeper of who has access to see your social media posts. On Facebook, you can also block specific individuals from seeing certain posts, or block people altogether. Also, be sure to update your timeline and tagging settings on Facebook so you can control photo tags and other tags or comments that could show up on your wall, as well as who can share your posts, and so on. I have my profile set so I get to review and approve anything I'm tagged in before it can be added to my timeline.

Do: Remember, it's a small world. Even if your profile is set to private, your friends and colleagues talk and can share your posts for their friends and colleagues to see, and the trend can continue. It's impressive how quickly gossip and stories can spread, so bear this social media mistake in mind when you're gossiping of sharing otherwise private info on social media sites. You can also update your setting to help with such issues on some sites, like Facebook, as mentioned above.

Do: Be kind. Always. I like to live by this in general, but if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all (on social, or elsewhere).

Do: Spread good, not evil. In the same vein of being kind, promote and share the good news and information people share about others and avoid doing the same for the not-so-good.

Do: Separate professional from personal. Some social platforms are designed specifically for professional connections, like LinkedIn, and others are meant to be more personal, like Facebook. However, many social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, have become more business-friendly in recent years. You can build a professional page on Facebook, for example. It takes a bit more effort, but depending on your profession, you might want to keep your professional profiles and connections separate from your personal ones. On LinkedIn, especially, people are there to make professional connections, so be wary of posting posts that are too personal.

Do: Be active on LinkedIn. As reported on Capterra, 89 percent of recruiters reported hiring an individual via LinkedIn, with Facebook trailing far behind at 29 percent and Twitter at 15 percent. Further, a 2014 report by Jobvite shows that 94 percent of recruiters are active on LinkedIn, but only 36 percent of candidates are active on the site. LinkedIn is the top professional networking site, as these stats indicate, so keep your profile complete and up-to-date and be active on the site to network and land future jobs.

Do: Be careful of the company you keep. Though you might be keeping your profile PG, your friends might not be. Your contacts (and others if your profile is public) can sometimes see what your non-PG contacts are posting if they show up in your feed or are posting on your page. I had this happen to a friend whose profile was questioned by a co-worker when one of his friend's semi-nude photos showed up on his page, and coworkers saw it. Oops! Definitely a social media mistake to avoid at all costs.

Don't: Get sucked in by propaganda. With the invention of the internet and rise of social media, posting and sharing propaganda for a mass audience is easier than ever. This propaganda stirs emotions and seems to bring out the not-so-good side of people at times. It also shows how easily people will buy into and share propaganda without doing research or thinking through their personal beliefs on a subject. If you're such a person, and prospective employers see it, it will likely eliminate you from their candidate pool. Don't get sucked into propaganda debates, which can be readily available during election years like this one.

Don't: Be a downer. No one likes to be around a Debbie Downer, nor does anyone want to hire a Debbie Downer. For your personal branding strategy, keep your posts on the up-and-up with a more or less positive perspective.

Don't: Overshare. Though your mom, or biggest fan, might like to know, the general population doesn't need to know what you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Oversharing might be a turnoff to potential employers.

Don't: React too quickly. Count to 100 before you react (or give it 24 hours). It's amazing how quickly our emotions can be triggered and comments can fly by a one-sentence post on Facebook or any social media site. Before reacting to something that makes your blood boil, count to 100, or give it 24 hours, so you have some time to think about your response before you react in a way that could make you look bad.

After you've been hired and begin working:

Do: Show some love. Share positive news and information about your company.

Do: Know your company's policies and current practices. With the rise of social media comes the need for company policies and guidelines on social media usage for employees. Find out what your company's policy is on the matter. Also, pay attention to how your company uses social media for guidance on how you might choose to represent the company online.

Do: Keep it legal. Before or after you're hired, I'd like to think it goes without saying, but steer clear of posting anything that could be considered illegal, like drinking while driving or marijuana usage (major social media mistakes). Even in areas where marijuana might be legal for recreational use, your company policy might prohibit it or look down upon, so use good judgment in what you post.

Do: Be yourself. Some people try to put on a show or be something they're not on social media. The safest bet is to chill out and be yourself (while keeping these do’s and don'ts in mind).

Do: Use caution when it comes to friending coworkers and supervisors. This one can be tricky because you don't want to look bad if you choose not to friend coworkers or supervisors when they send you a request to connect. If you feel compelled to accept requests such as these, on Facebook, you can update your privacy settings for a particular group or individual, so they don't see posts unless you want them to. If you're not comfortable accepting your coworker's request, then don't. As a part of a personal branding strategy, some people set up separate professional accounts for such requests, which might be an option, as well.

Don't: Badmouth or bash a company, especially yours. Avoid saying anything negative about the company for which you work. In fact, it's generally considered in poor taste if you talk poorly about any company or coworker on social media sites. Taking the high road ends up best in the long run, from personal experience. In fact, the CareerBuilder survey referenced above indicated that employers also rejected candidates that spoke poorly about their prior employers or co-workers, so keep this "don't" in mind before you're hired, as well.

Don't: Get caught wasting the company's time. Many companies block employees from accessing social media sites unless you're part of the PR or marketing department that requires the use of them. Even if you aren't permitted access on your computer, you'll have access on your smartphone (unless it's a company issued phone that prohibits it). Either way, focus on your work vs. social media sites to get started off on the right foot and remain in your company's good graces. Also, if you do post via your phone during work hours when you're not supposed to be accessing social media, be smart about it—the time of your post will show up, and someone might notice.

Don't: Get caught in a lie. If you decide to play hooky from work because you're "sick," and you magically get better by noon and decide to go to the mall, you might want to steer clear of social media unless you want to get caught playing hooky.

Don't: Post confidential or proprietary information. I know this should go without saying, but people have made the social media mistake of inadvertently shared information that was borderline proprietary. You probably signed a confidentiality agreement of some sort when you began your employment, which means posting anything you should not could get you in trouble.

In conclusion, there's a lot to consider and prep for when it comes to your job search post-graduation, and social media can be a great resource if wisely used. Utilize social media in such a way that it can help you land your first job to launch your career vs. get you in trouble before you even get your foot in the door.

Let TopResume help you write the next chapter of your career. Here’s how.

Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!