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Your online persona matters… and here’s why

November is about the time of year when I peruse Indeed and Handshake for interesting summer internships. It has always been a dream of mine to work as a magazine writer, so as I browsed job postings from varying magazines and began filling out some basic questions, I stumbled upon a request that took me by surprise:

“Please provide your Instagram handle.”

Immediately, I started panicking. Although I was sure I did not have anything particularly saucy on my profile, I was forced to quickly reflect on my online persona. What did my social media account say about the kind of person I was? Was I proud of what popped up on the screen? All of a sudden, I started worrying. Did I have enough followers? Were my captions too cliche? Did the hard-working, passionate cover letter I wrote parallel the girl in the photographs?

Social media has become an interesting new element added to the job search process. The idea of that selfie I posted back in 2012 to my measly 100 followers is going to be assessed by a potential employer over half a decade later is daunting. So the question remains: how do you navigate social media in a way that properly reflects who you are in the workplace? Or – better yet – should who you are in the workplace even have to be reflected online?

I debated leaving the answer blank. They would not be able to judge my Instagram profile if I pretend as though I do not have an Instagram profile. But then I realized that social media is important to show one’s digital literacy. Especially when applying to programs in journalism, keeping up to date on social media happenings is crucial. Simply acting as though I stayed off Instagram could just as well have hurt my chances of being hired.

There was only one option left: I had to send them my handle.

Whether we like it or not, social media profiles are a growing new demand from employers. How we portray ourselves online matters. By no means should building an online persona be a priority, but making sure what you see is to some degree reflective of how you want to be perceived is important.

nizhny1@stolaf.edu
Alexia Nizhny ’22 is from New York, N.Y. Her major is English.