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Make your online presence pitch perfect

When you find a job you want, don’t let your online footprint hold you back. See how with these tips.

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: While my posts on social media aren’t risqué, I’m open about who I am. If I’m looking for a new role, should I be concerned about what I post? Should I tidy up my old posts?

Answer: Yes and no. Companies embrace authenticity in candidates, but—as with anything—you must strike a balance, advised Microsoft recruiter Maasa Walker. By thinking carefully about how you want to position and project yourself and then curating your social media with that in mind, you’ll be able to show what’s unique about you without oversharing.

Prune but don’t delete

You do want to review your online social presence, but you don’t want to deal with the issue of questionable content by trying to erase your whole online existence, Walker said.

In other words, don’t go scorching social media earth or shut down your accounts. Instead, Walker suggests that you simply remove potentially unprofessional posts as a first step. To figure out what might not be professional, consider the impression you’re making on potential future coworkers. Avoid things like offensive language and images.

If you’re stuck on whether you should delete a post, then you should err on the side of caution and remove it, Walker said. Still not sure? Ask a level-headed friend or trusted mentor.

Then, work on rebuilding profiles that reflect who you really are.

Choose the best channels

Creating and maintaining a LinkedIn profile allows recruiters to gain insight into your professional interests and experiences. As for other platforms to curate, it often depends on the type of candidate, Walker said.

If you are a designer, you might want to point recruiters to your personal website or online portfolio. Include a link to your code on GitHub if you’re a software engineer. As a social media community manager, let your personal social channels showcase your skills, she said.

The bottom line? Walker suggests that you choose platforms that show off your personality and skills in a way that makes sense for the roles you are aiming for and that you make sure your digital presence is in shape to be viewed through a professional lens. In other words, be deliberate about where your story is being told.

Think of yourself as a brand

As a rule of thumb, Walker recommends that you start to see yourself as a brand when it comes to public-facing, online content.

“Think of your digital activity as an advertising channel for your brand by using it to your advantage,” she said. “Is your brand clear? Is it an accurate reflection of who you are and of your capabilities?”

By regularly sharing relevant content, either content others post or your own that you create (or both), you begin to establish yourself as an industry thought leader. Meanwhile, follow industry players and actively engage with others in your network.

When it comes to LinkedIn and personal profiles, always stay current, upload your up-to-date résumé, and provide your contact info in case a recruiter tries to reach you, Walker advised.

“You can also put in your LinkedIn header, ‘seeking new role,’” she said. “That will help make your intentions clear.”

Whatever you do, don’t create a profile and then abandon it. It’s always good to check in periodically, especially if you’re actively looking for a new role. Walker said that you should be sure to check your direct messages, in case recruiters or hiring managers are messaging you.

Stay true to you—with the help of privacy settings

Ultimately, if you feel your post isn’t “boss or parent worthy,” then you probably shouldn’t post it, Walker said.

But don’t feel like you must create a work of fiction either, she said. “Being authentic and professional are two different things, so you can absolutely be both,” she said. Applicants should never feel they must be inauthentic to land a dream role.

If you want to share more of your personal life to the world, don’t be afraid to take advantage of privacy settings. For instance, if you’ve decided to share pictures from your recent vacation and don’t want anyone other than friends to view your post, Walker advised that you use the platform’s privacy settings.

“Be mindful about the friends and connections you allow to see your content,” she said. “You do you, but know that every action could have a consequence. There’s always a tradeoff.”