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The Professional Student: Branding Yourself Through Social Media

One of the most important purposes of a college degree is to help you land a good job that will eventually lead to a fulfilling career. The time to start pursuing that career, however, is not after you graduate, but as soon as you start school. College students today have an additional challenge that students of the past did not: protecting their online reputation. Whether or not you know it, you have a personal brand and protecting your brand is just as important for you as it is for any corporate giant out there.

Here are some tips for cleaning up your online image so it doesn’t ruin your career before it even begins.

Clean House

  • Edit your social media profiles to present yourself as a more serious business person. This doesn’t mean you can’t post any personal photos, but you might want to post more photos of charity work or fundraising endeavors and ditch the bikini or keg stand photos.
  • Google yourself to check and see if anything negative comes up. If it does, that might negatively impact you in the eyes of potential employers or other influential people when they search for you.
  • View your profiles from the perspective of a future boss or recruiter. Ask yourself if you would hire or recruit yourself based on the image that is projected by your social media pages. If not, you know what changes you need to make.

Power Up Your Linkedin

LinkedIn is a platform designed for business networking. It’s where you most need to be visible if you want to build a career. At this stage of your life, you want to highlight your achievements or accomplishments rather than specific positions. This also includes any academic or charitable endeavors.

If you belong to a sorority or fraternity, you’ll also want to keep the focus on your achievements rather than listing the sorority or fraternity itself. LinkedIn is also a great place to network.

Here are some great ways to build up strong connections on LinkedIn

  • Create connections with people you admire or professionals in your industry
  • Join professional groups in your industry and take part in discussions. You can post articles or even blog to showcase your knowledge in a certain field
  • Write references for other colleagues
  • Interact with potential employers to help get yourself on their radar

Clean Up Facebook

While LinkedIn may be the first stop for recruiters and employers, they certainly don’t stop there. In fact, up to 70% of potential employers and recruiters will check your Facebook page before making any decisions about you.

No matter how great your GPA or other academic accomplishments are, what you post and what kinds of groups you belong to will tell recruiters as much, if not more about you than your CV ever could.

No matter how great your GPA or other academic accomplishments are, what you post and what kinds of groups you belong to will tell recruiters as much, if not more about you than your CV ever could.

Keep in mind that both recruiters and employers are making an investment in you. Colleges and universities want to turn out graduates who go on to have illustrious careers and bring prestige to their alma mater, not graduates who tarnish their good name with a long string of personal scandals.

Training new employees is also expensive, particularly when they have little to no job experience. You can get relevant experience by taking on a job while you’re in college. Therefore, both potential recruiters and employers are taking a risk on you.

Make sure you do everything you can to set their mind at ease that it is a good one.

Spend Your Free Time Wisely


These days, almost everything you do has the potential to be filmed or recorded and spread on social media. While anyone can have one bad night or make one critical mistake that can change the course of their lives, the truth is, the more time you spend doing something, the more likely you are to be memorialized for that thing.

If you spend most of your time helping others and behaving like a responsible, mature adult, there is a good chance this will be the reputation you will take with you. If you spend most of your time drinking, partying or being largely irresponsible, that is far more likely to end up landing you in hot water.

How you spend your time will also go a long way to determining just how much one giant mistake can cost you.

Back Up Good Reputation With Good Intentions

Just remember how companies have weathered incredible scandals thanks to a good, solid reputation prior to the scandal. Wells Fargo, Facebook, and Nike are only a few of the corporate giants to successfully weather massive scandals in recent history but are still going strong.

Why?

Because they built a solid reputation prior to the scandal that carried them through.

Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Enron are only a few examples of businesses and individuals that did not fare so well. No matter how well you scrub your online image, presenting a squeaky-clean image online is just simply not enough.

Your real-life behavior is what actually matters most. While you don’t want your online image to derail you, it is also important that your real-life behavior doesn’t either.

Staying Away From Trouble Is The Best Approach

There are always going to be aspects of your online reputation that you cannot control. Others can use social media to spread rumors, innuendos or outright lies about you and there isn’t always a whole lot you can do about it. In addition, there is not a lot you can do about pictures you didn’t know were taken or that were taken without your knowledge.

You can, however, do your best to not place yourself in compromising situations where those types of things can happen. And you can definitely prevent giving off the wrong impression on your own social media pages by doing some careful planning and cultivating.

Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Your online image may be the only impression some influential people will ever get of you, so make sure it’s a good one.

Heather Redding
Heather Redding
HEATHER is a tech enthusiast and freelance writer based in Aurora, Illinois. When she isn’t working, Heather loves to read and swim. She is also a coffee snob with a passion for photography. You can reach Heather via her social media links below.

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