It’s commencement season, and this year’s grads are headed into a competitive employment environment. One of the factors that will determine their destiny is social media. What they do — and don’t do — can mean the difference between finding an ideal job, and finding themselves with limited options.

So, if you’re part of the class of 2021, what should you do to position yourself for success? Here are three important considerations.

• Clean up your personal social media presence. This year’s grads have heard the same advice since middle school: “think before you post.” However, they don’t necessarily follow that recommendation. According to a recent study, approximately 79% of employers have rejected a candidate for employment based on their social media content. The most common infractions, according to the same study? Hate speech, images of the candidate drinking or using drugs, content that suggests involvement in illegal or illicit activities, poor grammar, and unprofessional content about former employers.

It’s understandable why this happens. For most college students, social media is primarily relevant to their social lives, and the threshold for “questionable” content is much lower. But when they begin looking for a job and social media starts to impact their employment prospects, they can be in for a rude awakening.

The advice here is simple: delete content that isn’t consistent with what you want to be known for, and consider changing your privacy settings so you can’t be tagged in photos and so employers don’t have access to everything you’ve shared. The best approach, of course, is to ensure all the content you share has a positive impact on your reputation, but you also want to revisit what you’ve shared in the past to make sure it doesn’t send the wrong message. It’s one thing to have made mistakes about what you’ve shared in the past, but quite another to let it persist.

• Master LinkedIn — and go beyond the basics. If you’re looking for a job, having a robust LinkedIn presence in a must. With 95% of recruiters on the platform, LinkedIn is unmatched in its ability to connect talent to great opportunities. However, just being on LinkedIn isn’t enough. Secure a professional headshot, connect with prospective employers and recruiters, interact with their content, share relevant posts regularly, join industry groups, and craft your profile to focus on the skills and experience that are aligned with your target audience’s needs.

The challenge is to make LinkedIn a habit, not an afterthought. While many recent grads spend hours online every day, they generally focus on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and others relevant only to their personal lives. While they certainly deserve some downtime like the rest of us, even exchanging just 10-15 minutes a day on these sites for the equivalent time on LinkedIn can pay huge dividends.

• Create content that conveys your expertise. When I was a recent college grad (you probably saw that phrase coming), my options for telling my story were primarily limited to face-to-face conversations, phone calls, and postal mail. Today, social media opens up infinite opportunities with very few barriers to entry. Job seekers should, therefore, take advantage of this by sharing long-form content that conveys their expertise. If you’re a marketing grad, for example, put a portfolio online. Finance grad? Start a blog and share your thoughts on industry news. Just completed a degree in engineering?

Make videos that showcase the projects you’ve worked on — or would like to work on.

Creating long-form content has multiple benefits. First, it shows prospective employers that you’re passionate about your chosen career field and that you have digital literacy, which is becoming more valuable. In addition, it provides you with fodder for social media posts — including, of course, LinkedIn. And finally, it gives you some search engine optimization fuel, making you more likely to be found via search. It’s not effortless, of course, but it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd.

Social media is just one factor in your job search — but it’s becoming increasingly important.

Leverage its strengths and beware of the pitfalls and your career will be more likely to get off to a great start.

ANTHONY JULIANO is a marketing and social media strategist, teacher, trainer and writer. He is vice president of marketing and social media strategy at Asher Agency in Fort Wayne, and he teaches social media and marketing classes at Indiana Tech and Purdue University Fort Wayne. Connect with him at LinkedIn.com/in/anthonyjuliano or via email at anthonyj@asheragency.com.

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