At the risk of sounding like your grandma, we’ve never been more searchable online. From Instagram and Twitter to Depop, a quick Google search of your name will bring up hundreds of results. Which, if you’re waiting for a long-lost summer romance to get in touch, is great! But if you’re hoping to land your next career move, you might find how you come across online is holding you back (hello *those* pictures from #LaBoracay2k16.)
A Monster Jobs study revealed 77 percent of executive recruiters use search engines to find out about their candidates, so having an internet presence that’s in line with where you’re hoping to go professionally is key. "Social media can be a powerful tool for career development when used in the right way," Charlotte Davies, careers expert at LinkedIn, explains. "But it’s important to be mindful about what you’re posting and where; we all like sharing personal content but is it appropriate and on the right channel?"
While we’re never one to shy away from a #humblebrag holiday post, there are ways to make your internet presence work in your professional favor. Here's how:
DO A DIGITAL AUDIT
Let's be honest: your prospective employer has probably trawled your social media platforms and gained an impression of you before you've even met them. It’s imperative to make sure you’re happy with what they—or anyone, for that matter—are going to see. "Of course, recruiters do some digging," says Alexandra Lewington, Head of PR & communications at digital recruitment company Reuben Sinclair. "Google and LinkedIn are the main platforms we look at, but for PR and marketing roles, Twitter is key for seeing how a candidate articulates themselves. If you’re looking for a role in communications, we want to know you can communicate!"
You don’t want anything out there that might hinder the application process and feel inappropriate—especially in a more corporate industry. "Your Saturday night shouldn’t be rolling into your Monday morning," Davies advises. "Your internet presence should be a reflection of your most authentic workplace self." Which, sadly, probably isn’t the same as 3 a.m. you, chin deep in cheesy chips.
"The best way to see what's out there is to Google your own name on an incognito browser, and see what comes up," Lewington continues. Make note of the things you're happy to see—an engaging blog entry, or active LinkedIn page—and the things that need to change.
CLEAN UP YOUR ACT
We all know that every social media platform serves a purpose: Instagram for photos, Facebook for friends, and Twitter for memes. But when you’re looking to land your next position, it’s crucial to be consistent in how you’re coming across, and make sure every platform is in line with where you want to go.
"In creative industries, you’re encouraged to have opinions and expected to put interesting content out there," Lewington says. But that shouldn’t come at the cost of being professional—be mindful of the language you use, and the things you’re affiliated with. Have you liked pages on Facebook that you regret? Or tweeted something that you shouldn’t have? Have a cleanup and delete anything you don't like before going on the job hunt—because recruiters are looking.
Pay particular attention to strong views you're sharing—"obviously if you've been extremist at any point, that's going to raise a red flag"—or times when you're "pushing your opinions too far. It's hard not to share your thoughts in this current climate, but it's a fine line between professional and inappropriate."
You should also consider how those seemingly meaningless Twitter complaints about your Lazada delivery, or sassy reviews, reflect on you. "One piece of negativity travels a lot quicker than positivity," Abi Hattersley, a consultant in creative support at recruitment firm Tomorrow, warns. "Stay away from posting anything that is too negative, or sharing bad reviews—even if it’s an indirect tweet about something personal. You don’t want to be giving off bad vibes."
PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
Forget dressing for the job you want, it's all about ‘gramming for your dream role. "If you’re applying for a job where you’ll have to wear something smart every day, wear something smart in your LinkedIn profile picture," Davies says, adding that you can also be proactive in coming across like a worthy candidate by "using social media to demonstrate and showcase your work in the best possible light." This could be anything from sharing links to great projects you’ve worked on, to following and connecting with the right people.
Katherine Jackson, operating director at recruitment firm Michael Page, agrees, adding that you should "be professional, authentic, and active" on your profiles when job-seeking. She explains, "If you have a social media page, use it! Are you actually linked in with a decent number of people? If not, employers might question your proactivity. Have you joined groups and had conversations that demonstrate both business and social interests?" LinkedIn also has a "Job Seeking Preferences" option under "Settings," which notifies recruiters that you're open to new job opportunities.
It’s not just LinkedIn, either: keeping your Instagram and Twitter accounts up to date can also be beneficial for "showing initiative," Jackson continues. "And it illustrates that you’re interesting!" If you've run a marathon, for example, sharing photos from the finish line shows your determination and grit. Or, if you've traveled to somewhere adventurous, your eagerness to try new experiences and learn will shine through your posts.
COHERENCE IS KEEN
For creative roles, recruiters encourage candidates to have a digital presence, because employers like to know you’re socially native and understand the channels. "Use that online platform to make a positive impression by showing how engaged you are in your desired industry," Lewington advises. "Writing about the interesting trends that are happening in your chosen field, or new campaigns you love is priceless in terms of showing a genuine interest."
You can even use your potential employer’s social media to your advantage. "Imitate the tone of voice of the company you’re applying to," Hattersley adds. "Find existing employees on LinkedIn, or look at the company’s Instagram account—if you’re sharing similar things, it will show what a good fit you are."
Beyond that, think about combining your professional and personal achievements online, to give a well-rounded view of you as a person. Hattersley explains, "The best Instagram accounts are those that mix in personal life with impressive career accomplishments. We love seeing candidates show an interest in their area, while also giving visual examples of the hobbies they included on their CV."
Lewington advises against having two Instagram accounts. "Having separate personal and professional profiles seems disingenuous to a certain degree," she explains. "It's sort of saying, ‘I’m one person at work but another person in my personal life’, which doesn't send the best message.
"Equally, there's no point sanitizing who you really are—if drinking cocktails and taking pictures in bikinis is a big part of your personality, I don’t think you should hide that. Because if you end up getting a new job while trying to be something that you’re not, you’re starting off on the wrong foot in the first place."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.