Clean up your social media

Before a job search, clean up your profile

by Tonya Lanthier, RDH

We have all seen it before: the friend on Facebook who posts every intimate detail of her life, from what she ate for breakfast to political rants, off-color remarks, and pictures of her late-night debauchery. This type of personal behavior might prevent you from getting a job, and more potential employers are performing "social media background checks" before they will even think about offering you employment.

Take Connor Riley for example. Riley was 22 years old when she was offered, then denied, a job by Cisco. Right after Riley was offered the job, she immediately did what happens all too often – she hit the social media playing fields to talk about her new opportunity. Her mistake? She posted "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work." You decide whether this was a mistake or not.

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On paper you might be the most ideal candidate in the world. However, job seekers should be aware of what a search engine and social media search will bring up about themselves. When perusing your name on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and your social media accounts, ask yourself: "What do these searches reveal about me that might give someone second thoughts about hiring me?" If the answer is not flattering, it is likely that you are not putting your best foot forward in showcasing the professional representation of who you are.

Why Clean Up Your Social Media?

To understand why registered dental hygienists should clean up their social media before they start a job search, put yourself in the place of the hiring manager of a busy dental practice. You have two resumes that are equally impressive. What do you do?

Where would a hiring manager look to learn about how a potential hire acts outside of work? Like Cisco and so many other companies, social media sites, of course. If one of the potential hires' searches brings up a bunch of photos portraying wild behavior at parties, angry remarks, or off-color jokes, and the other nothing but a few nice reviews of local restaurants on Yelp and some pleasant photos on a bird-watching group on Facebook, who do you think is going to get the nod? Most hiring managers are looking for professionalism within as well as outside of the workplace.

If you have already started your job search by the time you are reading this, don't panic!! All is not lost. Go ahead and clean up your social media NOW, not later. Even if you're currently employed but considering a move, or you are happy where you are and plan to spend the rest of your career there, this still applies to you (you'll see why in a little bit).

Being Mindful Means Better Opportunities

Does limiting your social presence mean that you are stripping your soul of who you really are? Instead of thinking of your newfound social media privacy as restraining, think of it as taking the appropriate steps to being a more socially acceptable professional. Your role as a dental hygienist means that you will be working with a practice whose clients include families with young children. You and your coworkers are healthcare professionals who work hard to develop special relationships with your patients who trust you to keep their best interests in mind. How do you think the mothers of your patients would react if they saw those pictures of you pounding tequila shots at Chili's on a Tuesday night?

It is not as if your employer or your patients are ignorant to the fact that people act differently in their free time than they do at work. It is more about the fact that consumers have a choice of where to get dental treatments – meaning that the choice which represents a caring, safe environment, free from thoughts of controversial nonpublic behavior, is generally more accepted.

Besides being mindful of your clients, being cognizant of your online activities can help you become more mindful in general. Mindfulness is considered a virtue, on and off of social media. Here are some ways we can all practice being more mindful:

  • Being in control of how we act and react to events and people around us
  • Thinking before speaking
  • Being considerate of the feelings of those around us
  • Having respect for others
  • Having respect for ourselves

Being mindful can seem so obvious, right? But the sad thing is that most people rarely practice mindfulness. But don't despair! The great thing about mindfulness is that it can be learned. You just have to be willing to learn it.

Cleaning up your social media can be a good first step toward achieving mindfulness. Going through your social media history will be a good way for you to see, as if through someone else's eyes, how you look to others.

Nowhere have we mentioned that you should refrain from being active on social media. In fact, we encourage utilizing social media in constructive ways that can help you look more professional in the eyes of your potential hirer. For example, you can showcase your interest in dentistry by following prominent people in the dental industry on Twitter or LinkedIn. Or, your comments on related RDH blogs or online industry publications show potential employers that you have a genuine interest in what you do and care about progressing as a professional. These are the kinds of things that are important to employers when the bulk of what they see on social media from potential hires is the 80 drunken pictures the hires posted at Mardi Gras last year.

In addition to getting more involved in the professional aspects of social media networking, consider how intelligent you come across in your comments. Social media has become notorious for promoting bad grammar and terrible spelling. If the job you're applying for requires written communication with patients, this could be a big deal. Sure, it may just be a case of letting your grammatical hair down in social media, but be mindful that many employers are concerned about communication in all mediums. When they see a post like "OMG! That party last nite was too much! Ima b soo hungover today fo sho! LOL," it might raise a few red flags.

Once you do accept that offer for your dream job as a registered dental hygienist at a growing practice, it is important to continue those good social media habits. You should plan to continue the social media practices that helped you get hired (or at least didn't hinder you) in the first place.

One key point to remember: never, ever complain about or show disrespect for your employer, co-workers, patients, or anyone in your industry in any social media venue. Kansas City Chiefs former running back Larry Johnson can attest to this. Johnson was admonished for his inflammatory tweets so much so that 32,000 fans petitioned to have him released from the team.

Social media can be a powerful tool in helping you achieve your professional goals. Your online persona can demonstrate to potential employers that you are thoughtful, professional, respectful, and engaged. It can show that you have an interest in continuing to learn about the field that you have chosen.

Think about social media as a loudspeaker that is always on, and everyone can hear everything you say, including your boss. Imagine that every photo and video you post, every comment you make, every "like" and "follow" button that you click, will be seen by everyone you know. When you think about it that way, it will keep you focused on what's important.

Being responsible, thoughtful, and considerate – being mindful – makes you the kind of person any dental practice would want to represent to their patients, and will lead to a long and rewarding career!

Tonya Lanthier, RDH, began her career as a dental hygienist in 1995. Her love for dentistry was a driving force in the founding of DentalPost.net in 2005, as an easy-to-use platform to help dental professionals and dental practices connect. Tonya is a delegate for the Atlanta Dental Hygiene Society, serves on the planning committee for the Gala for Smiles, and volunteers for the Georgia Mission of Mercy and the Ben Mansell Clinic. She is a member of the Academy of Dental Consultants Management, Entreprenuers' Organization, and is the Georgia Dental Hygienists' Association public relations liaison. Tonya lives in Atlanta and is the mother of twin girls.

Limit Your Permissions, Not Your Lifestyle

We would be wrong if we said that every employer automatically disregards potential hires just because of a few goofy pictures of you dressed up like a gorilla on the 4th of July. However, given the job market being as competitive as it is, why take the chance on getting passed up when you don't have to? Don't give the hiring manager a chance to slide your resume over to the do-not-call stack; be proactive about eliminating, censoring, or adjusting your permissions so that anything questionable is limited as much as possible.

On Facebook in particular, you can limit your exposure so that you can avoid being found at all. Consider doing the following with your Facebook account to limit your exposure:

  • Limit posting activity such as photos, comments, chat, status updates, and friends
  • Limit your visibility by doing the following:
  1. Change your Facebook name
  2. Change the email address associated with your Facebook account
  3. Limit your friends' ability to tag you in photos
  4. Limit your relationship status
  5. Remove your picture of yourself on the profile
  6. Limit who can see work, professional, and other basic info about yourself
  • Adjust your privacy settings

If you are really worried or just want to play it safe, you can also temporarily deactivate your Facebook account. Doing so will mean your timeline and all information associated will disappear from Facebook immediately. When you are ready to reactivate, all of your information will be restored in its entirety. If you do this, you should still do a quick Google search to see where else you come up.

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