Our generation is the first to be considered “digital natives”. We’ve grown up with the internet, so now as young adults, we are fully capable of traversing it because of this close familiarity.

I believe that being digital natives means we should be more careful with our posts. During our time staring at screens, we’ve seen others burn in light of their posts. Whether or not we want to believe it, we know in our heart of hearts that both inappropriate and explicit posts will come back to haunt us.

So how can you avoid this turmoil?

An easy first step would be to avoid posting inappropriate and explicit content. But something you can consider for the long-term is putting more thought behind your posts.  Putting more thought and intention into each piece of content that you spread across the internet will mean that your posts are better crafted and of higher quality.

Now I know you may be thinking, “If I don’t get to post whatever I want, social media isn’t fun anymore.”  Something cool about keeping your social media clean is this: being professional doesn’t mean you can’t be personal.

Having an account that’s professional and an account that truly represents yourself are not mutually exclusive. It doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun, or be funny. Crack that culturally relevant joke. If you love a meme, tweet it!
Part of being a young professional is embracing what you have to bring to the table, and realizing that you’re not a knockoff. You have something to say that nobody else can.

Future employers who look at your accounts understand that you are human–you have tastes, experiences, and a life to live. Building your personal brand means being yourself first and foremost. For me, that includes my passion for my Hope College community, digital marketing strategy, and whatever’s trending. For you, it could be a love for coding, coffee, or Buzzfeed quizzes. Use what you love as a launch point for your online presence.

Interestingly enough, when analyzing social media usage, employers don’t only keep their eyes peeled for bad behavior. In a 2014 survey of employers conducted by CareerBuilder, one-third of employers surveyed said they actually considered someone more due to their positive social presence, with 46% of them saying they considered the candidate more because they got a good feel for their personality and could see them fitting in with company culture.
Not only does an appropriate presence make you respectable: if it’s infused with every last drop of yourself, employers will appreciate that, too.

I understand that the idea of potential employers pouring over your account is difficult to envision, so here are three simple ways to make your online presence both professional and personal.

Post like your Dad follows you.

For some of us, this is already an accurate scenario. Would your tweets disappoint him? Enrage him? Or would he favorite each one in pride, as dorky as they may be? If you can answer yes to this last question, then your post is in good shape. If your answer is no, think about why that is and if you can edit your post to guarantee it “Dad-Approved”.

Remember to add value.

During the first week of my internship with the University of Michigan’s social media department, I tagged along with my boss Nikki Sunstrum as she was the keynote speaker at a social media conference nearby.
She said something to all the content creators in the audience that day that has stuck with me. “Are we adding value or are we adding noise?”

It’s not a stretch to ask yourself the same question when it comes to your personal content. If you really love cheese and truly feel the desire to share that great gouda you had for lunch, go for it. But think about throwing in a favorite article you read that day or a picture you enjoy.

Consider how to add value to your follower’s timelines. Make them happy they decided to follow you.

Keep your friends accountable.

The people you are tagged in photos with are automatically associated with you, and employers can see that too. First off, by modeling these positive behaviors, you already will set a good example for your friends online.

But don’t be afraid to keep them accountable. Imagine if it was you who was in the sticky situation. You would probably rather have your friend shoot you a concerned text then reap the consequences the next time you apply for a job.


We all can relate to a heat-of-the-moment post. Whether it’s because we think we’re funny or are not having our best judgement, inappropriate posts happen. Posting in an unattractive manner can tarnish your entire online presence.

Being digital natives, we have the knowledge and capability to perform better across our favorite social media platforms. This is crucial to our future as we graduate from college and embark on the mission to secure a job in the real world. It’s easier than you may think! Remember to “PAK”: post like your Dad follows you, add value to your timeline, and keep your friends accountable. PAK-ing will not only keep you out of trouble, but just might land you that dream job you been looking for!

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