Most young professionals today have a presence in one or more social media, including Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and blogs.  When used appropriately, these media can be assets to your career and educational advancement.  However, inappropriate photos or information can just as easily have negative impacts.

Fortune recently ran an article examining the social media pitfalls that MBA applicants may face.  I was somewhat surprised to learn that some applicants are willing to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to an admissions consulting company that will include a social media audit as part of its consulting package.  MBA applicants (and everyone else, for that matter) can effectively manage their online presence by being careful about what they post online, and periodically checking to make sure others have not posted disparaging, inaccurate, or embarrassing information or photos about them.

Having worked as an admissions officer for a number of years, I have certainly used the Web to find information about applicants.  If you list a Linkedin profile on your resume, you can assume that the admissions committee will take a look at it.  I have also seen candidates list blogs or website URLs on their application materials, and I generally will check those out too to learn more about the applicant.  In addition, I have looked up the websites of companies or organizations listed on applicants’ resumes that I am not familiar with.   Usually this is to prepare myself better for an interview with a candidate, but occasionally it is also to verify the information that candidates present.  While the vast majority of applicants are truthful in their applications, unfortunately a small minority embellish or lie about their accomplishments, which means that admissions committee members need to be vigilant.

When applying for graduate school or for a new job, there’s no need to be paranoid–but you certainly should search for information about yourself on Google, Facebook, Linkedin, and other sites to make sure that details publicly available about you reflect the image that you want to present to universities or employers.  All of our MBA students are strongly encouraged to create and routinely update their Linkedin profiles, as Linkedin has much more upside than downside potential for business professionals when managed properly.

So take some time in the near future to conduct your own social media audit–it’s free, and you may be surprised by what you find out about yourself on the Web!