If you’re job searching, then it’s likely that you’ve been advised to monitor your social media accounts and online presence. After all, employers might be looking to see what they can find.

You’re absolutely right. Making sure to check your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook privacy settings is crucial to ensuring that employers won’t see any information you wouldn’t want them to if they looked at your profile. Often, social media platforms are used for leisurely reasons rather than professional ones, so it’s important to only allow access to certain posts and pictures to your “friends.” By doing this extra step, you’re one piece closer to preserving a clean online persona.

In this article, I want to discuss the implications of what you share with your “friends” online and how that might adversely affect your job search. Here are a few things worth thinking about:

Are your friends really your friends?

Defining who your friends are on Facebook is the first step in determining this impact. I’ve observed that most people have a pretty broad definition of who counts as a friend on Facebook. When you think about your network, how many “friends” actually know what’s going on in your life outside of the Facebook community? For me (and I’m guessing for many other people), it’s not a very high percentage.

In the case of acquaintances, what is the overall perception you are giving off?

A lot of the people in our network only know us through social media. What does that mean for our relationships? If I sit with a group of friends and say, “This person is always talking about their cats,” everyone will instantly know who I’m talking about. Social media has given us new ways to express ourselves, but it’s also made it easier for others to make assumptions about us.

Being obsessed with baking may not be a bad thing, but what if you’re the person known for always posting pictures of yourself drinking beer? Or flaunting money? Or wearing skimpy clothing every weekend? Is that how you want to be seen by your acquaintances?

This is my personal social media, why should I care?

Even though you shouldn’t have to, it’s important to be aware that anything you post on social media can come back to haunt you. Once something is online, it’s there forever; even if your only audience is 500 people today, those same people might not always be part of your “social” network.

Someone you haven’t talked to since high school might work at your dream company. Which version of “you” will they remember – the one from five years ago or the one they’ve seen on Facebook? Your social media persona creates a perception that may not reflect reality.

Now that you’ve had a chance to think about it, the answer is probably clear. If an old acquaintance asked you to pass their resume along to your boss but they appear unprofessional on Facebook, how likely are you to give them a good recommendation? You would be less likely than if they made a better impression on social media.

What’s the solution?

It’s impractical to always think “Will people recommend me for a job based on this picture?”, but you should at least be conscious that what you post online reflects upon who you are and how others see you. With digital interactions now commonplace, it’s important to remember that even if your privacy settings are watertight, people in your immediate network still have an impression of you.

As you meet new people and grow your network, both online and offline, you never know when you might need a favor. Maintaining positive relationships with the people in your network will pay off down the road.

How do you make sure your social media is up to par? Let us know in the comments below!

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