Ah, the summer internship. It’s often among a young person’s most formative experiences, helping them make those salient connections, allowing them to identify what they’re passionate about and what they’re great at (or not so great at), and even leading to a first job. In other words, it’s a big opportunity, and you don’t want to blow it. And one of the easiest ways to instantly and profoundly do so in today’s work environment is to make a social media faux pas.
As the Head of Early Career Recruitment for WEX, I can tell you that while we don’t retrace a potential intern’s every social step, we do look at how active they are on social media, how they display their interests and voice their opinions and what their overall digital footprint looks like. Whether you’re in search of an internship or already hired, I’d like to share a few social media tips to ensure you make the best impression as you start your career:
DO use social media to network and grow your network. Use your social platforms to stay connected to people who work in industries or at organizations that you’re interested in.
DON’T use social media to rant. It’s great to be opinionated and to passionately advocate for those opinions, but remember to be careful about the things you say and do online—as an intern, you’re now an ambassador for your organization. Regardless of your position in the organizational structure, you are a part of your company’s brand.
DO abide by the corporate communications guidelines. Before you post things you see and hear at work, you need to get approval from the corporate communications team. At WEX, we host a “Lunch and Learn” with our interns and Corporate Communications to teach them guidelines of communicating in a corporate environment. As a rule of thumb, don’t make any statement in relation to your employer or use its logo in any capacity without first receiving permission.
DON’T put your social life on full display. Most of today’s social media platforms are very casual and socially driven, and this can sometimes clash with the professional image interns aspire to project. We all love to socialize, but it’s important to be careful about showcasing how well you socialize. This doesn’t mean you need to sterilize everything on your profile, but think twice before posting that photo or video of you doing a keg stand.
DO be a control freak. Before joining WEX, I worked at the State Department and had foreign dignitaries as part of my social network. One day I wrote a Facebook post about an event with an ambassador, and a classmate from college—someone random whom I hadn’t talked to in a very long time—left a comment filled with profanity. It was an absolute embarrassment that I never wanted to happen again. Now, I approve everything before it gets posted to my wall. I control who can see what on my profiles and closely monitor who I accept into my network.
DO evaluate whether your digital footprint represents you well today. Nowadays, you can find social activity that goes back many years. In college I wrote a blog, and at the time I thought I was the smartest student out there. A few years ago, I made that blog private—I realized I had no idea what I was talking about and it didn’t reflect who I am today. Just like you workout to make yourself look and feel better, you have to scrub through your social media platforms to make sure your digital identity is fit, too.
DO think before you post. Before you hit ‘post’ on a social media platform, ask yourself: Is this the right message? Who’s going to be looking at or reading this? And can I go to work tomorrow with a straight face?