A Job Seeker's Guide to Social Media

Even though they're still a relatively new form of interaction, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become so popular it would be silly not to have some kind of presence online if you're job hunting. Creating a presence online lets you put your personality out there, allows you to interact with other people, and it's a great networking tool.

It's important to not just jump into it and post willy nilly, however. If you're out to make an impression and connect with the business world, there are certain things you'll want to know, and certain things you won't want to say.

1) First things first-Always read the privacy statement before signing up. In particular, Facebook changes it's privacy policy relatively frequently, so it's a good idea to know how your information is being used (such as allowances to use what you post on your site for targeted ad purposes), and how to protect yourself if you feel it's being misused. Facebook is rife with rumors and people posting status updates about privacy policy rumors (such as the ever-popular "Facebook is selling pictures of your kids" rumor), so knowing what you are actually dealing with is a good way to avoid panic.

2) Know who can see your profiles. If you don’t want people seeing your information or able to Google you, make sure the privacy policy allows a totally private profile. That being said, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to have some info public, especially if you want to make an impression on an employer searching for you. On Twitter especially it's far more common to have a public profile than a private one- one of the many great things about Twitter is unique in its ability to allow interacting across the globe without fear of having too much personal info public (on Twitter your profile has a picture and a your tweets- not much else to show your identity unless you choose to tweet about it). However, even though it's fine to have a public profile, you need to be extra careful what you say if you chose to have one (and please, don't publicly post any private information like phone numbers). A potential employer can and will search for you on the net, and your Twitter and Facebook pages will come up- and any public information will be added to their impression of you. So if you tweet that you hate your job, or post a status update of something vulgar, a potential employer could see that and gain a negative perspective of you.

3) Be aware of who you’re interacting with. For the same reasons you don’t want employers to see you posting anything too wild or crazy, you wouldn’t want them to see that your friends tagged you in an album featuring tequila shots last Saturday. You can “un-tag” yourself in any pictures your friends have posted on Facebook, removing yourself from the possibility that an employer would see them on your Facebook page. The same goes for any unflattering wall posts your friends may have made- it’s fairly simple to take them down. Don’t want to take them down? Just make sure your wall and your photos are marked as “Friends Only.”
4) Speak up. While it’s important to watch what you say, you don’t just want to be a lurker. Interact, connect, share, and comment- anything that will show your personality, your strengths, and your intelligence. This doesn’t mean you should just comment on everything and anything so you can get your two cents in- think it through, make it count, and people you are trying to connect with will really get a chance to see you shine. One great way to show your expertise? LinkedIn Answers allows users to create Q & A forums in which you can post answers to work force-related quandaries.

5) Follow companies you are interested in. On top of receiving the latest news on promotions, events, and changes within the company, following a company on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn is a good way to stay on top of the hiring game. Many companies not only host jobs on social media sites, they will post news and links to hiring or hiring events they are holding.

6) Join LinkedIn. LinkedIn is especially great for job seekers- you can get recommendations from current and former coworkers, connect with professionals, and participate in job-related forums. It’s important to build your network on LinkedIn- since its atmosphere is solely professional, it’s quickly becoming one of the first places employers look when they are checking out applicants or doing recruiting. LinkedIn can serve as a good replacement for Facebook or Twitter if you feel those sites are too personal to be public- the platform is professional, but there’s enough interaction on the site that you can easily build a positive presence online. It’s easy to build relationships with professionals too- using the “degrees” feature, you can see who your network is connected to and ask for introductions from your friends. It’s like Six Degrees of Separation, LinkedIn style- instead of ending up at Kevin Bacon, you end up adding more professionals to your network.

Social media may seem like an invasion of privacy or an invitation to be wild on the internet, but it’s not- with the right mind set, your online presence can boost your potential, which is something we all can hope for when searching for a job.

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