Can My Online Identity Keep Me From Landing an Internship?

Thu, Mar 8, 2012

Internship Information

Like most college students, you’ve got a full life. With school work, extra-curricular activities, weekend jobs and a social life, you’re more than busy. But you have another life as well, one that’s just as full. Your online life. With enough people on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the other social networking sites to make up whole countries, there’s a good chance you’ve got a long and personal online history. And usually it’s all in good fun. But problems could arise when you begin applying for internships. Social networking sites are searchable, and information found there can be used to judge your worthiness just as much as questions asked in an interview. Could your online identity ruin your chances of landing an internship?

Recent years have seen an explosion of social media sites. Millions of people are active daily, and it’s no secret that prospective employers have begun using them as a sort of soft background check. Advertisers and credit card companies have nearly perfected targeting potential consumers through their online postings, and employers can use this same information to decide if you’re a good fit for their team. And with the internet, it’s incredibly easy for them to do. Traditional background checks are slow and costly, while a five-minute Google search can speak volumes about what you’re interested in and the kind of person you are. If they’re looking for something specific, they could narrow the search, and hunt through old photos and poorly-conceived posts. So it’s never too early to start tightening your social networking security. Make sure you adjust your privacy settings so that the truly personal things are limited to close friends. And over all, try to be as professional as possible on your social networks. That means keep the drunk party pictures on your phone, and not the web.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a strong online presence might actually help your chances of landing certain internships. Companies across a wide range of industries are now using social networks to promote their businesses, launch new products and run unique advertising campaigns. Though a key aspect of their marketing efforts, this online work is usually handled by people low on the company totem pole. That means it often falls to the interns to manage social media. If the scale of your online presence shows an expertise in this area, it could give you a leg up on the competition. In cases like this, it’s incredibly important that your online identity is professional, because savvy social networking companies will surely check you out online before even having you in to interview. But if you can prove that you’re actively engaged in the online community, especially if you’re a tastemaker or early adapter, the effort you’ve put into developing a strong online identity could be rewarded.

In the end, err on the side of safety. Your online identity could help you land a social networking internship, but a tasteless picture or a tweet griping about an old boss could cost you dearly when it comes to other internships. So don’t let an offhand remark or bad joke make the difference between nailing that internship that gets you into medical school, or missing out and settling for an online masters in health care administration.

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