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Career Services warns students about pitfalls of social media

April 14, 2011

Imagine sitting in a class and seeing an embarrassing picture of you projected on the big screen. It’s a picture you have seen many times before; in fact, you recognize it as a picture someone tagged of you on Facebook.

Now imagine going to a job interview and seeing the same picture on the interviewer’s computer screen.
For some students at UW-River Falls, the first experience was a real one, and designed to save them from the second experience coming true.

Career Services Social Media Intern Sonja Lee said that some professors at UWRF have been looking up their students’ Facebook profiles to show them the kind of information that is publicly accessible on the Internet.

In an age where social media often give people a first impression of us before we even meet them, websites such as Facebook and Twitter should be carefully maintained and monitored by users so that their profiles present a professional image, Lee said.

She said that there are some active steps one can take to “clean up” their Facebook profile before applying for jobs in the corporate world. 

“You can’t control what pictures other people post of you on their walls,” Lee said, “Untag any inappropriate pictures that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see, or if it’s really inappropriate, ask them to take it down.”

Graduating senior Joe King said he has already taken measures to keep his Facebook profile private. He said he thinks the best way to keep people from seeing inappropriate things is to not let them get posted at all.

“I don’t accept friend requests from people I don’t know very well, so my friend list is pretty small,” King said, “My friends all know I don’t want them to post pictures of me, especially from nights out on the town.”

Lee also added that students should check their security settings because Facebook is always changing who can view certain information on your profile. Just because all the settings have been set to private, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way if they change their policy.

Also, don’t use Facebook applications or games such as Farmville, Lee said. The game might gain access to your private information and make it public.

One way to make sure one’s Facebook account isn’t accessible to future employers is to delete it six months before graduation, Lee said. Deleting a Facebook profile doesn’t remove it overnight.

“It can take as long as six months for the information on your Facebook to actually get deleted from the Internet. I deleted my Facebook to test it, and the very next day I was able to pull it back up and all my information was still there,” Lee added.

Lee also offered some tips on ways that social media sites can actually benefit graduates as they look for a job.

“Use LinkedIn for more professional networking,” Lee said, “You can even include a professional looking headshot.”

With the hard economic times we are in, everything one can do to help themselves get a job counts, Lee said.

“If you have one bad thing on your Facebook it can hurt you,” Lee said. “Is that one picture so important for people to see that it could cost you a job?”