Is Your Online Presence Hurting Your Career?

Is Your Online Presence Hurting Your Career? was originally published on Idealist Careers.

A woman wearing headphones looking at her smartphone and smiling

For many of us, social media is an integral part of everyday life—and for many employers, a prospective hire’s online presence can be a major factor in determining employability. In addition to reading through resumes and cover letters, 90% of employers are looking at a candidate’s social media to gain insight into their personalities.

So how can you ensure that you’re putting your most professional foot forward on your personal feeds? Here, we cover some of the biggest social media mistakes and give suggestions for best practices when it comes to your online presence.

How social media can hurt you

Gone are the days when you can assume recruiters and employers are only perusing your LinkedIn profile to learn more about you. If you are active online, a quick Google search can show any interested party who you are beyond your resume. And social media includes not only social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but also discussion networks like Reddit and review platforms like Yelp.

The types of social media content that lead to employers rejecting candidates might include:

  • Denigrating previous employers or co-workers;
  • Sharing confidential information about current or previous employers;
  • Lying about qualifications or work absences;
  • Poor communication skills;
  • Inappropriate posts;
  • Discriminatory comments;
  • Criminal behavior;
  • An unprofessional social media username; and
  • Posting too frequently.

The biggest social media mistakes you may be making

Social media can be a boon if used correctly, but unfortunately, mindless usage can be damaging to your reputation and career. You need not have outright malicious intentions to make big mistakes. All it takes is a laissez-faire approach to social media to suddenly and unknowingly create obstacles for yourself.

Some of these big mistakes are:

  • Frequently posting content during office hours—even if it’s during a break or lunch;
  • Complaining about your work, manager, co-workers, or clients;
  • Sharing details of your job offer;
  • Plagiarizing content, or simply not properly attributing content you did not create;
  • Using excessive profanity;
  • Posting provocative content like scantily clad photos or photos showing the use of drugs or alcohol;
  • Offensive comments; and
  • Poor spelling and grammar.

You most likely already take extra care to ensure you’re making none of these mistakes on any professional social networks you participate in, but it’s crucial to remember that any public profiles you have—even ones you stopped using ages ago—also make up your online presence. Most people are more relaxed with their personal social media usage, and that’s where the big mistakes are most likely to be.

Common-sense social media practices

You may be thinking that social media is a veritable minefield at this point, but these networks also have real benefits. If used correctly, they can connect you with like-minded people and keep you informed of new opportunities. Here are some best practices to consider whenever you post on social media:

  • For any non-professional social media profiles you have, consider making them private so you can control who sees your content. If you want to keep them public, be sure that your content does not contain any of the big mistakes listed above.
  • Deactivate or delete old accounts that you no longer use.
  • Double-check that your content isn’t violating any of your current employer’s policies.
  • Do not share any information about your employer. If you want to post something related to your current employer, get permission to do so first.
  • Post content on your free time and not during office hours.
  • Proofread your content to check for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and clarity.
  • Think twice before you post. If you have any doubts about what you are about to share, just don’t post it.

Audit yourself

Keeping these best practices in mind does not mean that your online presence will become too bland. If you want to showcase your personality and expertise, you can still do so with a professional website or with public social media profiles that have a clear purpose (e.g. showcasing your photography skills, sharing your written work, talking about a cause you support).

Whatever your current online presence is, it can only help to audit yourself. Look at your posted content and ask yourself if you would want a current or potential employer to see it. This requires you to look at your presence more critically, but it also trains you to be more strategic with what and how you post social media content going forward.


Originally published on by Nisha Kumar Kulkarni