Now, more than ever, with the transition to increased professional activities through virtual platforms, your virtual presence even as a pre-professional is important. It’s become easy—and often routine—for professors, clinical educators, and, most importantly, future employers to check out a student’s social media activity. Although social media was once reserved solely for “socializing,” it’s now crossed over to becoming a platform for professional networking. Therefore, it’s crucial that you consider your ability to navigate social media from the viewpoint of a pre-professional.
Check out these 5 critical—but doable—steps for you to implement now!
1. Start with Your Brand
Navigating social media begins with your brand. Your brand represents the idea or thought you want a person to have in their mind when they think of you. How do you want to represent yourself? What impression do you want to make? As a pre-professional, think about developing a brand that indicates your capability, professionalism, and well-roundedness.
When people see your profile (photo included!), what impression do you want them to “virtually” walk away with? Ask yourself the question, “What impression am I making on social media?” versus “What impression do I want to make on social media?” To take it a step further, ask yourself this: “How could the impression I’m currently making on social media be viewed by a potential employer?” If there’s a disconnect in this process, take charge of your brand and fix it. Be sure the impression you want to make matches the impression that you’re making. You’re in control of your brand.
Homework: Review your social media presence to ensure that it reflects a pre-professional brand.
2. Consider the Impact of Your Posts
Just as the saying goes, “Every action has a reaction,” this holds true for social media posts as well. Replace the word “action” with the word “post!” Publish your posts with the knowledge that “every post has a reaction.” Therefore, it’s important that you—as the pre-professional who will soon be in the market to land a sweet new job—consider the impact of your social media posts.
Here’s a simple question to ask yourself: “How will others perceive the content of my post?” Or “What impression will my post make on others?” Your post could have a significant positive impact on your followers and friends. It could be a “positive” no brainer! But, you still need to consider whether there will be any negative impact. Determine whether the positive impact significantly outweighs any possible negative impact . . . and do it before posting.
Homework: Review any social media posts from the last couple of weeks. Assess the impact of the posts for positive (and negative) impact. Edit or delete posts that are heavily negative.
3. Proofread Your Posts
Although social media is often considered an informal way of interacting with others, as a pre-professional, “informal” doesn’t mean that you should publish your posts without proofreading. Again, this can make or break the impression that you form with future employers. Let your posts reflect examples of your written communication style. This includes spelling words correctly, using words appropriately, and ensuring your posts are clear and well-written. The wording of your posts should give your followers and friends a representative glimpse into your writing skills. How often do you reread your post before or immediately after posting? If you haven’t been doing this, you may want to start. Check for grammar, spelling errors, and missing words—and, if the social media platform allows it, edit, correct, and update the post.
Also, proofread your posts for tone. The tone of written language can often go misinterpreted. And let’s not forget the tone that is associated with the use of “all caps” in written communication such as social media posts. Proofread your post from the angle of a friend or follower. What tone would they receive from your post, and does the tone match your intent? If not, then it’s time to do some editing.
Homework: Going forward, proofread your posts before posting.
4. Screen the Posts of Your Friends and Followers
The “social” aspect of social media includes the ability of friends and followers to freely comment on your social media posts and photos. Although you may think, “I can’t control what others post,” that’s not necessarily true. Social media allows you to delete comments from others on your social media space. Although replies from others aren’t necessarily your thoughts, they do represent your brand. In establishing a pre-professional social media presence, take control of your social media space, and be clear on what behaviors you consider to be a representation of the impression you hope to make.
Homework: Take a moment to go through replies from friends and followers on your social media platforms. Look closely at the photos you upload and the photos you are tagged in. Remove photos that don’t represent your pre-professional reputation.
5. Give Your Photos a Second Look
The advancements of smartphones make the ability of sharing and posting photos easy! It takes a few seconds to take a photo and share it on multiple platforms for anyone to see. These photos represent your brand and the impressions you make on others. Although photos aren’t resumes, they are indicators of who you are and what you represent. So, just as you’re encouraged to give your posts a second look, do the same for photos. This includes photos you post as well as photos others post of you. Consider whether the photos you post or are tagged in represent the impression you want to make as a pre-professional. Not every photo you take is necessarily meant to be shared.
This step may also include monitoring the photos that others take and tag you in. Know that it’s completely acceptable and within your right to request a friend or follower to remove a photo or tag of you. If a friend or colleague has an issue with this type of request, reconsider your relationship. After all, you are a pre-professional! This is a professional matter with professional implications.
Homework: Take a moment to go through the photos you have uploaded and the photos you’re tagged in. Remove photos that don’t represent your pre-professional reputation.