Is Your Social Media Your Career Friend or Foe?

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I recently read an article published on Forbes by a young millennial about careers and career expectations for 20-somethings. The article was good, and despite some grammar and spelling issues, they made a few valid points. At the bottom of the article were links to this person’s social media accounts, so I thought I would be supportive and give them a follow on twitter – one careers writer to another.

social media friend or foe

I clicked the link to their twitter account and immediately changed my mind. While the article they had written gave some impression of professionalism and articulation, there was a huge mismatch between this and what was on display on their twitter feed.

It made me think back to countless career sessions and workshops with young people I’ve had, discussing this particular issue. Social media can be a great thing – especially in the world of looking for work, networking and finding opportunities. Speaking from personal experience, it was through twitter I secured my first careers writing gigs, and it is still a valuable source for opportunities for me.

What counts the most is how you present yourself. I would demonstrate this in my career workshops by picking students from the class I was about to deliver to and bringing up photos or posts they had made that were available publicly. I would ask them, would you want a potential employer to see this? Almost 100% of the time the answer was no.

It’s no secret that employers look up potential candidates online, so make sure what’s available is what you want them to see! Here’s a re-visit of some top tips I’ve shared before about presenting yourself on social media when looking for work:

1. Check What Information is Available

It sounds quite straight forward, but making sure you’re aware of exactly what information is available should someone look you up on social media or via a google search is important. Privacy and accessibility settings have changed quite a lot across different social media platforms, so old posts and photos that may have been private could now be viewable.

I recently asked a colleague who wasn’t on my friend list on Facebook to look me up and see what they could view on my profile and was surprised by the amount that was still available. Make sure what’s accessible is what you want everyone, including potential employers, to see.

2. Update Your Privacy Settings Regularly

This ties in quite nicely with the above. Make sure that old posts are limited and check the options by which people can search for you. If you have a personal Twitter account, have a think about whether what you’re tweeting is something you would want a potential employer to be reading. If it isn’t, make sure your tweets are set to private. Various sites allow individuals to search for you via different contact means – your mobile or email address – check whether this is something you want against your account.

3. Use Appropriate Profile Photos

Even if all your privacy settings are in place, your profile picture is viewable to everyone (so it’s probably not a good idea to have one of you drunk in a club or doing something illegal).
An appropriate profile picture can make all the difference – and sets a good impression from the get go. Using the same photo across all your social media – especially if you’re advertising a professional presence helps set a standard as well, and will make you recognisable against all the relevant media you want people to see (blogs, articles etc).

4. Make Sure You Know Who You’re Connected With

When you’re creating a professional presence, it can be easy to get carried away connecting with anyone that requests it – but make sure everyone you’re connecting with is someone you want to have access to your profile. Check into anyone that’s adding you as a contact – social media has made networking a lot easier and viable, just make sure their profession matches what you’re looking for professionally.

5. Create a Professional Presence

From writing a blog and online articles, to having a professional Twitter account and adding to online debates/commenting on relevant blogs – it can all start to build up a positive, professional online presence that will stand out should an employer decide to look you up. Think about creating separate professional accounts that are open publicly to those you want to see it, and keep the personal accounts private for your own use.

Finally…

If you’re placing yourself in a position with opinions on different matters, and wanting to grow a ‘personal brand’ (as it’s now referred to) as a professional writer – or anything for that matter – what you say and how you present yourself in public spaces, such as social media, has to match up.

I’m always looking for good career writers to work with, or recommend to the sites I write for, and I do check social media for this. I know a lot of employers do the same. If you’re applying for work or scoping for opportunities and not being successful, it might be worth checking what people can find out about you before they pick up the phone.

photo by: Leanne Boulton

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