By Jill Cornfield


Just graduated? Take a close look at your digital footprint.

Hiring managers often review a candidate’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, not because they want to find reasons to reject someone but for deeper understanding.

Your social channels are a digital resume.

“It tells so much more than a resume ever could,” said Jennifer Bodner, CEO of Babbit Bodner, a public relations firm in Atlanta. Social media can more easily showcase passions and a personal brand.

Your social channels are a digital resume, “a way to demonstrate your value, creativity and fresh perspective on how to tell a brand story,” said Bodner. “In this case, the brand is you.”

HR teams scrutinize profiles, looking for “profanity, overuse of alcohol or drugs in postings,” Bodner said. “I still look at typos and grammar.”

Be conscious of what you put out there, which doesn’t mean hiding or deleting everything. Employers are going to find you anyway. In that case, you might as well use your social presence to help you land your first job. It’s a chance to show a future employer your character and personal interests.

Along with your new degree, you’ve likely got a job history with significant gaps (because, you know, college coursework). How do you tell the story of your work life with an empty LinkedIn profile?

Not only do you need to rethink your social profiles, you need to rethink how you present yourself, interact with others and share information.

Remember that you are selling yourself, says Josh Burnette, co-author of Adulting 101: #Wisdom4Life. “Every post, tweet or picture builds up or tears down your personal brand.”

To that end, ask yourself how you’d define your online brand and what it tells future employers. “You never want to be dishonest about your accomplishments, but what you communicate about yourself makes a huge impact,” Burnette said.

No work experience? No problem. It’s all part of being a recent graduate. And pay attention to the following do’s and don’ts.

Robert Daly | Caiaimage | Getty Images

Play nice

Your social media presence should reflect your best self. You probably wouldn’t hire someone who’s mean or petty, and neither will any reasonable employer. For a cautionary tale, remember the high-profile social media fails. The wrong post can actually get you fired or cancel your book deal.

When in doubt, follow the grandmother rule: Don’t put anything on social media you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.

How to leverage LinkedIn

Your mission: Detail your work life on a brand-new LinkedIn account.

No one expects a long work history from a recent grad. Burnette says you should create a dynamic summary. Share who you are and where you’d like to go. Add any internships, part-time jobs or volunteer work. Go into detail about what and where you studied. If you have certifications, include those, as well as participation in clubs.

“Make your profile as well rounded and complete as possible, even with minimal or no job experience,” Burnette said. “Include past accomplishments and current interests.”

Make some connections

When you connect with someone on LinkedIn, which Bodner calls hugely important, don’t just click the button; send a message.

It’s an opportunity to introduce yourself. Include your elevator pitch. Give it a great headline or subject line, such as “Three things you should know about me, and why I want to connect.”

Another way to make connections: Join some LinkedIn groups. “I’ve seen a ton of people connect through alumni groups,” Bodner said. “It shows what you are interested in.” Even if it doesn’t lead to a job interview, you could pick up some knowledge.

Learn to share

If you don’t have much aside from a few summer jobs, use LinkedIn to show prospective employers who you are. Share articles that touch on the industry you’d like to work in.

Look for news about your college. You don’t necessarily have to post original content. Bodner suggests trying your hand at a point-of-view piece on your industry, or even a personal essay: “Five things I’ve learned on my job hunt.”

Comment on other people’s posts. Follow influencers who have something in common with your industry, and share their content with an observation of your own.

Say cheese

Yes, you need a profile picture. And it needs to say you’re ready to work, not party.

“When I see a picture in a bar, that is an instant negative,” Bodner said. For your profile pic, use a headshot that would be appropriate for a bio or a resume: professional, very clear, not fuzzy.

LinkedIn profile photos are often professional headshots that include the subject’s shoulders, Burnette says. Dress professionally. “If you are questioning the picture, don’t use it,” he said.

What you put on LinkedIn is different from almost every other media platform, says Burnette. “You want the viewer to be able to imagine working alongside of you.”