"Be careful what you post online."
I can't tell you how many times I've heard this.
The Internet has made personal information readily available to anyone with an interest, including employers and college admission and scholarship committees that search social media sites for applicant profiles.
While others may discourage you from Facebooking and Tweeting, I am going to share some advice a teacher gave me during my senior year of high school.
She said the biggest misconception about social media is that it can be a huge liability. But, it doesn't have to be, if you use it the right way.
Here are some tips on how to be social media savvy when you are under the microscope and about to step into your new professional role.
Have a presence
Readers were quick to tell me the answer to this dilemma is simple — either delete your existing accounts or go under an alias to avoid coming up on a Google search.
With the attitude that no news is good news, this seems effective.
However, most job resource websites emphasize that a social media presence is essential for two reasons.
First, a lot of jobs require some basic knowledge of social media and how to use it as a form of marketing. So, if you don't have a searchable social media presence, that could be taken as an indicator you don't know how to use it.
The second reason you need social media while looking for a job is because a lack of an online presence may lead a prospective employer to think you're hiding something.
Sorry, that's just the way the world is now.
Do good things? Post about it.
Instead of thinking how your profiles can hurt you, think about how they can help you.
Do you volunteer, give to charities or have a creative hobby? If yes, showcase this.
Marlene Regan is a licensed professional counselor whose specialties include career counseling. She said having a good online image during a job or college search is directly related to profile maintenance.
Now, I'm sure you have some things way down on your timeline you may not be too proud of. In this case, do a clean sweep of that old clutter and start posting your most recent contributions to your community.
"I feel that people should think of social media as an online resume," Regan said.
While LinkedIn is the official version of this idea, it wouldn't hurt for you to think of all your other online profiles in the same light.
Have the mentality that each profile you have is another opportunity to sell yourself to a potential employer or prove to that scholarship committee you really did organize all those fundraisers.
Align personal with professional
If the job or scholarship you are applying for expects you to act a certain way, be sure your online persona matches that.
Lynn Boland, human resources director for the city of Green Bay, said this is her main concern with social media.
"We work at a place where we have public safety personnel," Boland said. "So, for example, if we saw something contrary to that, such as dangerous or reckless posts, that to us wouldn't align with an employee's professional life."
So if you are trying to become a teacher, don't post about how annoying kids can be.
Boland said her staff occasionally looks at social media profiles to gain a sense of who an applicant is and what their interests are, but it is never a make-or-break situation.
She said hiring is based on the skills an applicant brings to the table at the time of the interview.
The point — be sure to represent yourself in a way that you can manage both online and in person.
I'm not saying you should post everything about your life on social media (please, don't). However, if you have nothing to hide, prove it.
To show a potential employer or someone in authority you are trustworthy and have knowledge of social media, include links to all your profiles in the bio section of your sites. That way, those reviewing you don't have to look far to find out how amazing you are.
By Shelby Le Duc, posted on greenbaypressgazette.com