Becoming a professional doesn’t necessarily mean you have to abandon your personal page.
And I didn’t want to! I spent years developing my personal Twitter and it served as the ultimate depiction of me. The real me. Maybe not the professional, journalistically-neutral me, but it was my voice, and it took me a long time to become comfortable and confident in my postings. More importantly, what about the following I’ve gained! It may not be much but it is an audience and the idea of starting from scratch seems unfathomable.
Regardless of how much I loathed the idea of getting rid of my Twitter page, my professors and mentors made three things clear: journalist require objectivity and your twitter page should reflect that, employers will be turned off by unprofessional content and you don’t want one tweet from your past to ruin all aspects of your future.
But various recruiters I’ve spoken to have highlighted one crucial tidbit that gives me hope: while maintaining professionalism is key, employers are interested in seeing that you have the ability to personalize your account and interact with your audience. Translation: funny/ witty memes, gifs, likes, and retweets aren’t completely out of the picture. If anything they can make your appear more marketable.
So what do you do? How do you act professional whilst maintaining your voice and keeping an audience? Well, rather than completely abandoning my account, I opted to clean it up. I call it “The Twitter Cleanse,” and here’s how you do it.
Step One: Be realistic with yourself
The cleanse can only do so much. If you have thousands of tweets and know that a majority of them contain foul language (you know exactly what words I’m talking about), are extremely politicized or feature explicit images or videos, creating a professional account that will provide you a fresh start may not be the worst idea. (Or you can skip to Step Four.)
Step Two: Take a look at your media
We tend to forget that every meme, gif or image we ever tweet out is embedded into our media tab. Those of you who pair your tweets with some form of media may have thousands of files to sort through. Media content that is funny and witty (but not tooo witty) can stay! Content that’s political, makes references to things that are controversial, explicit or offensive should be deleted. Use your best professional judgment to determine what needs to go. Is a meme about Trump really worth it if it threatens your career?
Step Three: Utilize Twitter’s “Advanced Search” feature
Have you ever seen someone get Twitter famous only to be dropped hours later because an offensive tweet from their past was drudged up. They were probably a victim of an advanced search. This tools allows users to search for keywords in tweets from specific accounts. What’s best about this feature? You can use it to find and delete your own problematic tweets. Look below
Once you press search, Twitter will pull any tweets meeting your search criteria. Don’t hold back when searching terms. Remember that all it takes is one offensive tweet to put your entire career as risk. Don’t end it before it starts.
***Make sure you’re searching “any of these words” and not “all of these words.”
Step Four: Wipe it Clean
If you do the advanced search and realize that your past self lacked a filter, you may just want to delete your tweets and start fresh. While some of your tweets may hold a special place in your heart, deleting them ensures that they can’t haunt you down the line.
There is some good news though: you don’t need to delete your tweets individually. There are programs that delete your tweets in bulk!
Tweet Delete is one program that allows you to utilize an “auto delete” feature, delete tweets that are a certain age (i.e delete all tweets older than two years), and, if you really want to, wipe out all of your tweets.
Step Five: Change Your Name
Finally, an account with professional content can be completely invalidated by an unprofessional twitter handle. What worked in high school, or even college, may not be the best in the professional world.
(This step is the hardest for me I love my current name.. but alas it must be done)
Once this step has been completed, sit back, open your eyes and take a look at your new and improved, cleansed, professional Twitter account. Don’t forget the amount of stress and anxiety this process caused you. Now that your account is clean, it’s crucial that you leave it that way. Put a conscious effort into actively monitoring the content on your account and ensure that nothing that can jeopardize your career is posted.
You can still have fun with your tweets! Just think before you tweet.