Love it or hate it, social media isn’t going anywhere any time soon. It has become so ingrained in our culture that it would be difficult for most people to imagine their day without it. It is no longer just a digital haven for young people. It is a way of connecting with the world. It is a news source. It is a microphone for everyone from a lonely 8th grader to the President of the United States.

It could also help you get a job.

Everyone is on social media. That includes companies looking to hire new employees. They want to get to know a potential employee as best they can before they make their decision. Social media has become a big part of that. With that in mind, we’d like to offer you some advice on making your social media work for you in your job search.

Image is Everything

When you make a profile on any of the various social media platforms, you are putting yourself out there. You have the opportunity to curate that profile in a way that best reflects who you want people to see you as. If that sounds like a coy way of telling you to pretend to be something you are not, that is not my intention. In fact, I’m saying just the opposite. Be yourself. Just be the best version of yourself.

If you plan to use your social media profiles professionally, you may want to use them less personally. For example: if it’s not a picture you’d show a hiring manager in person, you probably don’t want it on your profile. That goes for foul and vulgar language as well.

The director James Gunn is a perfect example of this in current affairs. He was fired for vulgar tweets from almost ten years ago. The misconception that private accounts won’t affect your professional life has been around since Facebook was in its infancy. Long story short, keep it clean.

A last little tidbit on image: If you’ve been MrCoolGuy95 since middles school, switch to something more professional. If you can just use your name outright, get as close to it as you can. It matters.

Brand Yourself

If your social media is just a nice picture of yourself and a few basic facts, you’re using it wrong. Think of it as a lobby for your life. Do you have a portfolio of your work? Put a link to it in your profile. Is your work showcased anywhere? Put a link to it in your profile. Do you have a blog? Put a link to it in your profile. Share the things you’d want a potential employer to know about you.

That is not limited to your own accomplishments either. Share (or retweet or whatever the platform calls it) news stories that are important to you, organizations you support, and causes you’re passionate about. Your social media should feel lived in and make you seem like a real person…You are one, after all.

Let them know what kind of person you are. Are you a writer, a construction worker, an analyst, a marketer? It should be obvious just by looking at your various profiles. For that reason, consider putting a link to one or two of your social media platforms on your resumé.

Know the Limits

Social media is a great place to promote yourself personally and professionally. However, it is not a professional setting in and of itself. You don’t want to slide into the DMs of the place you’re applying…ever. If they choose to slide into yours, that’s great. Still, you might want to steer the conversation towards email correspondence.

While building a network is key, you also don’t want to pretend there are relationships where there really are none. That’s the nice way of saying don’t reach out to people you don’t know, especially to ask for things. This may seem like conflicting advice; but there are better ways to go about it.

Join a forum or group where new voices are welcome, and build relationships there. Start a group yourself and invite those you invite to invite others. These are only a few examples. The main point, randomly contacting strangers can make them feel uneasy, which is never a good thing.

As we’ve seen time and time again over the past decade or so, social media can really get you in trouble. That said, if you use it correctly, it can be a major asset!