“Ethical norms matter in certain industries, and really matter in others,” says McGrath. “They certainly don’t want young people who are indiscreet.”
To these employers, just one Facebook slip-up may be enough to cancel out your résumé.
“Students can be weird about what they reveal,” says McGrath, mentioning the graduating Yale student who sent an inspirational video of himself, entitled “Impossible is Nothing,” to Wall Street investment firms, only to become another YouTube casualty. “As you near the job search, clean up your Facebook,” McGrath says. “(But) be yourself on the whole.”
Facebook dos and don’ts
DO use your profile to show the person you are during the week, not just who you are on Friday nights. Providence College’s McGrath suggests adding your community-service record and work experience to your Facebook profile to catch the eye of employers and recruiters. “Don't hesitate to mention that you just finished an exhaustive research paper and it felt good to complete it,” he advises. “Talk about how you enjoy these achievements.” Just don't overdo it — your personality should still shine through.
DON’T post incriminating photos of yourself — no matter how funny they seem at the time. Good (bad) examples include pictures depicting or implying illegal behavior, sex, nudity, or recklessness. “You can project fun, there’s nothing wrong with that, but there should be no mention of drugs, excessive partying, or drinking underage,” McGrath cautions. While your friends may admire you for that photo capturing your first keg-stand freshman year, potential employers probably won’t see it the same way.
DO use Facebook’s privacy settings, located in the menu at the top right-hand corner of your browser window. You’re in total control of who sees your information and pictures, and who can search for your profile. Also, you can create a limited profile for specific online friends, or block certain people from accessing your profile or even knowing you use the site. “Use the privacy mechanisms on those pages,” stresses UMaine’s Fiacco, citing personal safety as a concern. “My thought is that the potential risks outweigh any potential benefits.”
DON’T forget about Facebook’s main purpose: networking. Sorry to break it to you, but college will end someday, and you will need to get a job. Luckily, Facebook has become one of the best ways for job recruiters to reach out to prospective employees. Once your profile has been sanitized, join company-based groups on Facebook to get a head start in the post-college job search. Ernst & Young, as well as many smaller firms, use their Facebook groups to collect résumés, distribute brochures and career advice, and hire young talent.
DO monitor your online presence on a regular basis. While you do have control over what you post and who sees it, it’s tougher to keep an eye on how your friends portray you in the party photos they diligently post every Sunday morning. Un-tag unflattering photos so they don’t link back to your profile and, if necessary, edit what your friends write on your wall.
These days, everybody’s online. Even Mom. So even if Big Brother doesn’t get you, somebody else might.
Ashley Rigazio, whose Facebook profile is devoted to sobriety and clean living, can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.