I know the title seems heavy, but it is an important concept to understand. Students know about and use social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. However, many of them are oblivious to the potential value that these online networks possess. Students and job seekers, alike, need to recognize that these sites can and will help them be found online during their job search.
Whether you like it or not, potential employers are searching for you on the Internet. Do yourself a favor and make sure that the information you want them to see is available for them to find. This doesn’t mean you have to sign up for every service out there and regularly blog about your daily eating habits. Just make sure you have established a positive and professional online presence. This includes all data and media you have posted online, including status updates, links, pictures and videos.
Start by evaluating what you currently use and think about what you’ll be able to manage as you finish school/search for employment. Once you’ve completed your audit of your social network behavior, make any changes you see fit (i.e. content clean up, additions/deletions, updates to privacy settings, etc.). Keep in mind that you still want your profiles to be a reflection of who you are as a person, but a recruiter doesn’t need to see you passed out on the bathroom floor. This would also be a great time to start figuring out how you are going to use online networks as you transition into having both a professional and a personal life.
Here is a quick analysis of three popular social networks:
A friend of mine recently spoke to a college class, where she was surprised to learn how few of the students had never heard of, let alone used, LinkedIn. For those of you like the students in that class – LinkedIn is a professional networking site where you can show your experience and interests, connect with your colleagues and industry peers, as well as research companies and possible job opportunities. From what I’ve seen, LinkedIn is the easiest way to have a searchable resume posted on the Internet. It’s also an excellent way to stay connected with all those people you’ve met along the way through internships and interviews.
Sure Facebook makes you findable, but it really isn’t the place to elaborate on your work experience and your volunteer projects. I recommend cleaning it up and/or locking it down. There’s never a better time than the present to revaluate some of those pictures that have been posted (and tagged) online. Keep it clean and professional. Sure it may feel great to rant and rave about specific people, companies or groups; but make sure the information that you post online is information that you want to be found.
Keeping it clean should be easy with only 140 characters. Don’t rant ugly four-letter expletives all over your account. This is a place to find and connect with people. You can be conversational and have thought provoking commentary, share articles pertaining to your industry or interests and join chats, or group discussions on an overarching topic, where you can get advice and mentorship. While PR practitioners and marketers heavily adopted Twitter and have been some of the most vocal users ever since, Twitter is really for everyone. Like most things, it is what you make it.