Clean Up Your Online Life.

Since being on CKNW’s The Simi Sara Show, this past week, I have been flooded with examples of how kids and young adults continue to post material, on their Social Media accounts, that can jeopardize their employment. This one was shared by a The Bob Rivers Show on 95.7 KJR , as yet another example of young employees making BAD choices when it comes to posting picture to the internet, that they think is fun.

More and more employers are paying attention to what is happening on Social Media, right from the time they are interviewing an employee and throughout the time the employee is with them. Regardless of how many examples are presented, however, people (not always just teens and young adults) still cannot seem to connect the dots. So, what is a person to do when they final do connect those dots and realize that their online profiles are just as representative of them as a resume or an in-person interview?

Student Wire, based out of the UK, recently posted a pretty straight forward list of what students can do to clean up their Social Media profile. I liked the fact that the very first suggestion is the one that every employer starts with: Google Yourself. This list can easily apply to anyone wanting to clean up their act on the Internet, but it especially true for the 18 to 34 crowd. Having grown up with the world of the Internet and Multi-Media, they shouldn’t be surprised that a Google Search on their names can usually turn up something of their online life. I say “shouldn’t be surprised”, but they usually are.

One option, to avoid the hours upon hours of going through all of your Social Media accounts and deleting “questionable or embarrassing” material, is to delete your presence on Google. While this may seem the simplest way to avoid being found on a search, does not mean that you won’t be found. Many simply delete their Social Media accounts, such as “permanent deletion” Facebook profile or deleting of their Twitter account. Problem with this is, as you can see from the pic of the kid from Burger King, someone has already seen it, screen captured it and is sharing it, right now, and you have no control over that. The fact is this; the internet NEVER forgets.

So, where do you start your clean up?

The very first place to go is where you spend the most time. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever, and go through your list of connections. Teens and Young adults are notorious for having hundreds upon hundred of friends / followers on their accounts. Face it. If you are under the age of 40, the chances of you actually “knowing” more than a few hundred people is pretty slim. Start the purge. Go through your connections and start disconnecting or blocking people that you do not know in real life, that you have no significant connection with or have little value to where you are going in life. Some may be insulted, but this is about you, not about them.

Next, turf ANY image based account you have. Instagram, Vine, Imgur, Snapchat, etc. You don’t need it. If you don’t have the account, you won’t be tempted to use it and they have little, if any, value to your future career life.

Go to any image gallery that you have (Facebook, Flickr, etc.) and delete everything that is more than a year old. You likely have your own copy of whatever image is posted there and this process will help make your clean up easier. If there are images that you think may benefit your future career life (you working as a volunteer, building wells in Africa) then add them again, into your updated profile. After that, go through the year of images you DO have and make sure that there is nothing incriminating in them.

If you have been on some Social Media accounts for less than 2 years, close them. If you feel you can benefit from having them, start new ones with a more professional look and content. This will help avoid any embarrassing posts that you have done, showing up when you least want them to.

My MOST important recommendation? Do it NOW! Don’t wait until you are out of a job or looking for a new one. Don’t wait until you are in the job market. Don’t wait until you are applying to colleges or universities. The internet needs time to get used to your old stuff not being there any more.

Next post: How to Avoid Social Media Disaster.