When you first joined Facebook, only young, hip kids like you were on it. But these days, everyone from your grandmother to your university's career counselor can see your favorite movies, books, relationship status and political views on your Facebook profile. In college, this was all OK because you were only being judged by your professors, who only cared about your performance on papers and tests without worrying about what you did when you weren't in class. But, now that you’ve graduated, you have become a potential employee--a whole different animal.
While Facebook and other social media sites are great ways to keep in touch with college friends who took jobs across the country, they can be dangerous for your career and grad school admissions prospects. You don't want a prospective employer or business school admissions officer to decide you're not for them because of the photos from last Friday's toga party.
Although Facebook has announced that it will be changing its privacy settings to be more effective and easier to use in the next few weeks, there are some things that you can do right now to make sure your personal and professional lives don't overlap. Here are the first two--and I think most important--steps to Facebook profile security:
Make everything on your Facebook profile "Friends Only."
Even if you limit access to your profile and photos to "Friends of Friends," what happens when you start networking through those friends? Best to cover all your bases and make everything (and I mean everything) "Friends Only."
Don't let your profile turn up in a Facebook search.
You may not know it, but you can take yourself off the general Facebook search and only allow friends to find you. This means that no prospective employer can find your profile--it's like you don't even have one! Turning off this search will avoid any awkward friend denials of co-workers and others with whom you don't want to share your personal information. (To turn off Facebook search, go to your Privacy Settings and click "View settings" under "Basic Directory Information." It's a little hidden, but once you get three, you'll have even more control over who can find your profile.)
There's been some discussion of schools recruiting students through Facebook. For instance, searching Facebook profiles for "violin player" or "CFA" to find desirable applicants. While it would be great for admissions officers to know about your special talents, letting them know through social media walks a fine line. Not having any information on your Facebook profile won't hurt you, but having the wrong information will. Until Facebook's privacy settings are absolutely perfect, it's better to be safe than sorry.
I know I probably sound like a luddite, but when you're going from student to professional, it's best to start with a clean slate. Employers will be impressed by the accomplishments and credentials on your resume, and not by the "extracurricular" activities on your Facebook profile.
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