The older you get, the less acceptable it is to look unprofessional on a public forum, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  Whether you’re applying for internships, jobs, or grad school, having a clean and professional social media profile can affect your chances for acceptance.  Employers want to hire people who will portray their company in a positive light, so Facebook statuses full of swear words or Instagram photos of you playing beer pong in a toga will definitely not impress a future employer.  Even if you’re still in high school, how you portray yourself on social media is still important.  Sororities and other organizations may look at the social media profiles of potential new members before you even step foot on a college campus, and even college admissions officers have said that they look up applicants on social media. Therefore, no matter what age you are, it’s time to clean up your social media profiles.  Here’s how:

1. Go through your pictures on every single social media site and delete, delete, delete.

If you’re under 21, there should not be pictures of you drinking alcohol, even if you are doing so while vacationing in a country where the drinking age is 16 or 18.  It might be unfair, but you never know who might see your picture and decide not to hire you because they think you’re prone to illegal behavior.  If you are over 21, alcohol in pictures may be okay as long as the pictures are classy, not trashy.  A glass of wine at dinner = okay.  Chugging beer out of a beer bong at a college party = not okay.  I hope this goes without being said, but any pictures that show you participating in any other illegal activity need to be deleted as well.

2. Watch the language.

Unfortunately, not all of us have always been the classy and professional ladies that we are now.  Delete any old statuses from your younger days that are ridden with swear words, and refrain from using such language in future posts.  A lot of employers won’t care about this, but some will, and you just never know who is looking at your profile and what types of things they care about.  Don’t lose out on a job because you used the “F” word in every status you posted at 17.

3. Avoid petty drama.

When I was in high school (years ago now), “Facebook fights” were incredibly common.  Someone would post a status that was obviously directed at someone else, and that person and their friends would respond.  Over the next few minutes, the status would explode into an argument full of petty insults and swear words.  Go back through your social media profiles and make sure that you do not have petty drama like this lurking on your page, even if it is years old.  It looks incredibly unprofessional.

4. Refrain from airing your dirty laundry on social media.

Few things are more unprofessional than heading to social media to vent about a friend, boyfriend, family member, or really anything else about your personal life.  Employers don’t want to hire an employee who vents to the world about how their sister hooked up with their boyfriend.  If you vent about your personal life in such a manner, who is to say you will not do the same about your job, coworkers, or boss? If something bad happens in your personal life, do not immediately run to Facebook to publicly blast that person.  It’s just plain trashy.

5. Watch your groups and likes.

If you have “alcohol” or “fraternity parties” listed as your interests, it is time to clean up your social media profile.  Those are definitely not the interests that employers want their future employees to have.

6. Watch the political posts.

This can be a tricky one, and it can depend on the type of job or internship you are applying for.  While I love having political discussions and sharing my political commentary with my friends on social media, it’s important to use common sense when discussing politics on social media.  For instance, if you’re applying for an internship with a Republican Senator, it’s probably best to avoid posting about how much you love Bernie Sanders and socialist policies.  Additionally, keep it classy when discussing politics.  Refrain from using insults or racist or sexist language.  The candidate that you’re referring to as a “cotton headed ninny muggins” might be your future employer’s favorite candidate ever.

7. Update your e-mail address.

The e-mail address that I had until I was about sixteen was “monkeygurl1224”.  Not too professional, eh? If your e-mail address is still something like “luvvolleyball4ever” or “sexxibballgurl”, then it is time for an update.  Use something simple and easily identifiable, such as your name and the year you were born.  You don’t want to look unprofessional when e-mailing potential employers and hurt your chances from the beginning.

8. Make everything private.

Even if you think that you’ve completely cleaned up your social media profile, you can never be too sure that something you posted won’t come back to bite you.  Even the smallest or seemingly silly things might offend a potential employer.  Make your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all photo albums completely private.  Google yourself as a test to make sure nothing public pops up.  However, making everything private does not make you exempt from cleaning up your social media.  You need to clean up your social media profiles AND make them private, because the technologically savvy can still find pictures and statuses that are supposedly private.

Now, get to work! Use these guidelines as a way to clean up your social media so that it never comes back to bite you.  If your Facebook page goes all the way back to the eighth grade and is so full of pictures and statuses that you might never find them all, it’s probably best to just delete your profile and start over.  I made a new Facebook page right before I started college and it was much easier than cleaning up four years worth of posts.  Whatever way you go about it, a social media cleanse will help make sure that you never lose out on a job or internship because of a status or picture you posted years ago.  Put your best foot forward and show the world the professional, intelligent, and classy young woman that you are!