Facebook profileYou wake up, check with Facebook, and there it is. Photographic evidence of last night’s birthday celebration. It’s all fun when you share with your friends and family, but what happens when your boss finds that less than flattering photo of you? Or worse, an angry, drunken message you may have posted without remembering it?

Mixing your social life with your professional life can be a dangerous combination.

Facebook is the biggest social media site, with over half of Americans having a profile. So it comes as no surprise that employers are using Facebook to find out more about the employees they have or are looking to hire. One inappropriate picture or rude comment can have you looking elsewhere for work.

It may not seem fair that people will compare your social life with your professional life, but a lot of employers won’t see the difference. Be smart! Here are a few tips for separating your personal and professional lives on Facebook.

1. Check your Privacy Settings

Facebook’s default settings are set to show pictures and statuses you post to those on your friends list. However, it’s worth double-checking your privacy settings. Make sure no one can peek at your profile without first being your friend. This is the simplest way to prevent potential employers from checking your Facebook page and making premature judgments. Though, if you’re like me, you may not even want to be found by people searching for your profile. If that’s the case, you can always…

2. Use a Different Variation of Your Name

If your full name is Joseph Robert Smith, use your middle name as your last name or use a nickname as your profile name. Your profile is then connected to Joe Robert, when people looking for you might be searching for Joseph Smith on Facebook. Now you can tell the friends you want how to find you on Facebook.

3. Create a List

Now you’ve got the job you wanted, but your new boss and coworkers are sending you friend requests. You know you can only ignore them for so long before it starts to seem weird, so you have to allow some of those workmates onto your Facebook. There are still ways to be friends with people from your professional circles without letting them invade your social circles.

You can organize your friends into different groups by putting them into “Lists.” Scroll down to where it says “Friends” on the left of your newsfeed, hover over it and click the “More” button. This will take you to a page aptly titled Friends, where you will find an option to create a list. Using different lists, you can put schoolmates in one, family in another, and everyone you work with in their own list. Once done, go to your privacy settings and change the groups of people who can see your future posts. By default it includes all of your friends, but with a few clicks you can choose which lists will be able to see your Facebook updates.

4. Use Your First Instincts

Of course, you may not want to exclude people from your posts on Facebook, and that’s fine. Just make sure that if you want all your friends to see what you are posting, you are smart about what you post. Ask yourself “is this something I may not want certain people to see?” If you are the least bit unsure, then don’t post it. It’s as simple as that.

If you need to think about whether or not something might get you in trouble, it’s a safe bet that it could. You may find yourself posting less on social media, but it’s the compromise you need to make when including professional contacts on your different social media.

5. Create Your Own Online Presence

Think about your online presence. Think about how you want to be viewed online. This can be both in what you post or what others post about you. Check what others are saying. If you are tagged in a post or picture that you don’t like, simply “un-tag” yourself. And make sure you don’t follow groups or pages that seem inappropriate. If someone sees you are following a page called “Crazy @#%$ My Ex Says,” it may imply something about your personality. Unfollow those types of pages.

The same goes for friends who may upload inappropriate content to Facebook. If you are associated with people that only post rude comments and crude pictures, it may be time to reevaluate your friends list. Or, if not willing to defriend those people, at least hide their statuses and updates so they don’t appear on your page.

It only takes these few simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to having a more professional Facebook page, and a better online presence.