You’ve seen it before – you’re cruising your Facebook news feed on a given night and come across something like this:
“This party is THE SHIZNIT!!!! Super dRuNk!!!111”
This, of course, was posted by a friend who is under the legal drinking age. Later that semester, you hear them complaining about not being able to get an internship. The correlation just fails to reveal itself to them.
Facebook is the world’s largest social networking site, boasting over 500 million users. On average, each user has 130 friends. Without doing all the complex math, it’s safe to say that your profile should be considered public. Of course, you’re not the type of person who would ever post the kind of mental flatulence mentioned above; however, maybe you’ve wondered just exactly how you can make your profile friendly to cruising employers who might be checking you out as a possible internship candidate. Here are eight tips that can help you attain that “perfect profile” and impress employers.
Don’t post unprofessional status updates
This tip refers directly to the (unfortunately) too-real example given above. Far too often, I’ll see status updates in my feed that are so unprofessional or downright stupid that they make me want to unfriend their author.
Make your profile picture a picture of you
Your profile picture is the most prominent thing on your profile, and it’s one of the only things that everyone can see, no matter how tight your privacy settings. With that in mind, it’s best to make that picture be one of you. Pictures of cartoon characters, sunsets, and artwork might be fun, but they’re not an accurate representation of you. Facebook is supposed to be your main online presence, and even if that’s not how you personally use it, that’s how it’s viewed.
You can score extra brownie points with employers if you make your profile picture a professional-looking one. If you take a look at my profile, you’ll see (at the time of this writing) that my profile picture is a cropped version of the ISU Business Council group photo. Doesn’t get a whole lot more professional than that! Bottom line: your profile picture is your “first impression” on viewers. Make it the best it can be.
Don’t post incriminating photos
Regarding photos other than your profile picture, it’s alright to have a bit more fun with your uploads. Facebook is, after all, just as much about fun and socializing as it is about professional networking. Still, be mindful of what you’re posting. Never post anything that puts you in an unflattering (or illegal) light. I’d recommend you steer clear of any alcohol-related pictures, especially if you’re underage.
In late 2005, 14 students at North Carolina State University were charge with alcohol possession. How were they caught? Police created fake Facebook profiles and were able to access pictures of the students drinking underage. The consequences these students received weren’t released to the public, but their example is still something to remember. Always be mindful of what you put on the internet!
Showcase your achievements
Like I said before, Facebook is your main online presence. It’s the place on the internet where people will see you most, and where people may form the strongest connections with you. Why not use this to your advantage by showcasing your achievements? You can actually use Facebook as an extension of your resume: post pictures of professional events you’ve attended and speeches you’ve given, link to your blog or website, and list your achievements at each of your jobs.
You can also use your Wall for this purpose; since it’s essentially a news feed of your life, make sure you populate it with things that put you in a good light. For example, I post a link to every article written on this site to my Wall. Those links don’t drive a whole lot of traffic, but they do fill my Wall with better things than Farmville updates!
Don’t poke people you don’t know
This one should be self-explanatory, but in reality it turns out to be anything but. The “Poke” button is one of the most misused features of Facebook, and I’m not even sure why it exists. Is it a way to flirt, or a way to remind other people that you exist when you’re too lazy to even write on their Wall? Either way, steer clear of this button when it comes to people you don’t know. You don’t want to be known as a “creeper”.
Customize your privacy settings
Content that might be viewed as unprofessional should be limited to your friends. That photo of you in the short shorts and bucket hat might be funny, but it’s something you’ll want to hide during a job search. Luckily, Facebook lets you customize your privacy settings pretty much any way you want. Check out this article for detailed instructions on how to limit access to your information.
You’ll also want to be aware of how much data you’re letting applications access. Apps like “How Many Kindergarteners Could You Take On In A Fight?” might be fun, but be aware that many of them will grab the data you have on your profile. If you aren’t comfortable with giving away this data, don’t use the app. Alternatively, you can create a second profile for yourself that doesn’t have any of that data, and use the apps to your heart’s content. Just make sure to make this profile private, so employers don’t think your sole interests are Vampire Wars and Quiz Monster.
Don’t become addicted to Facebook
Facebook is fun, and it can be a good tool for networking purposes if you use it right. Still, you should spend the majority of your time away from it. Reality is much more fun, and the relationships you build in real life will be a lot deeper and more productive.