Social media changes landscape for job seekers in good ways and bad
Ebru Kardan, Communications Manager at Mount Holyoke College's Career Development Center, uses Kendade Hall as a backdrop to photograph senior Mtise Mwanza of Zambia for her Linked In profile. Purchase photo reprints »
Photo courtesy Tatum Lindsay
This is Tatum Lindsay's LinkedIn profile image, which was taken by Mount Holyoke Colleges Career Development Center Communications Manager Ebru Kardan.
Purchase photo reprints »
Ebru Kardan is Communications Manager at Mount Holyoke College's Career Development Center. Purchase photo reprints »
Mount Holyoke College's Career Development Center Communications Manager Ebru Kardan, right, shows seniors Mohini Ufeli, left, of Nigeria and Mtise Mwanza of Zambia photos she's just taken for their Linked In profiles. Purchase photo reprints »
Chances are that if you’ve been active on the Internet, a lot of what you’ve said or done will come up with a search of your name, including posts on social media sites like Facebook, reviews of restaurants, replies to blog posts, even pictures you’ve posted online.
We aren’t all experts in navigating this new and growing world of cyber-information, especially when it comes to how it might impact a job search.
Fortunately, tech-savvy is something that can be learned, and with a bit of research, anyone can get up to date on the do’s and don’ts of online networking and privacy.
LinkedIn, a social media website geared toward the working world, allows job seekers to describe their past job experiences, connect and network with others and post updates about their daily or weekly career-related progress in a forum with a professional twist. Employers can also use LinkedIn to search for eligible candidates for hire.
Tatum Lindsay, 21, a peer career adviser and senior at Mount Holyoke College, works extensively with LinkedIn and other social media sites. “I think the most important thing is to have a complete profile,” Lindsay said of LinkedIn. “You want to be able to give recruiters the full picture of who you are. You don’t get a chance to do that on your resume. LinkedIn gives you that opportunity, so take it.”
Lindsay suggests going beyond just listing your title and the company or organization you work with by adding some bullet points that measure the impact that you had at the job.
“I think action verbs are great tools,” Lindsay said. Ask others for feedback if you get stuck or aren’t sure how to describe your contributions, she said.
“The biggest mistake that people make on LinkedIn is not having a vanity URL,” Lindsay said. A LinkedIn vanity URL will contain your name instead of a random set of characters. “You’re more likely to come up in a search,” she said.
Another mistake that Lindsay sees often is the treatment of a LinkedIn profile as a resume. “Don’t just say, ‘I did my Linkedin,’ ” Lindsay said. “You’re always doing your LinkedIn. It’s like a living thing. You can change it, you can tweak your experiences.”
Be active on your LinkedIn profile just as you would with Facebook, she said. “You have to leverage it in order to get something out of it,” she said. “I check my LinkedIn three or four times a day.”
If you have any online media that helps illustrate your capabilities or lets an employer get a sense of your work, put it on your LinkedIn using the add media feature. Did you get published? Write a really great thesis? Is there a YouTube video of a speech that you gave?
“It makes such a bigger impact if you can see the really fantastic PowerPoint presentation somebody did,” Lindsay said.
Having a profile picture is important. “It helps give your profile a personality, which is something that many employers want to see,” Lindsay said.
According to LinkedIn, a profile is seven times more likely to be viewed when a picture is present. Experts say profiles without pictures may cause employers to wonder what a prospective hire is trying to hide.
Choose your photo purposefully. LinkedIn profile pics should be clean and professional-looking, and speak to the job seeker’s industry. Don’t include pictures of yourself hanging out with friends at the beach with a drink in hand. Your picture should not include family, pets or anything that detracts from the main attraction: you. Casual pictures on LinkedIn can make you seem like a less desirable candidate.
Not sure how to use all of LinkedIn’s many features? Do a little research. Use the LinkedIn help center, which offers detailed tutorials, webinars and guides to help users get the most out of their profiles.
Twitter is another social media platform that can be helpful in making career-related contacts. Most companies have a presence on Twitter.
“You can tweet at companies or individuals that you are interested in learning more about, and respectfully talk about whatever they have posted,” said Ebru Kardan, communications manager at the Mount Holyoke College Career Development Center. Those companies can then tweet back at you.
“I absolutely love Twitter. I had all of these opportunities come up through Twitter,” Lindsay said. For instance, Lindsay saw a tweet from a California woman interested in doing a panel on Internet librarian gender representation. Lindsay, who had just finished an in-depth paper on the topic, tweeted back at the woman, who responded with an offer to be a part of the panel. Although Lindsay was unable to travel to California, she worked with people from all over the country via the Internet to create a presentation, gaining invaluable experience and bumping up her resume. “Stuff like that happens on Twitter, I kid you not, all the time,” Lindsay said.
As far as privacy goes on Twitter, “you only have two options: everything you say is public, or everything you say is protected” writes Shea Bennett of mediabistro.com.
Twitter users can retweet anything you say to people you don’t know. Because of the very searchable and public nature of tweeting, Kardan and Lindsay advise against posting inappropriate pictures, using hateful language, or getting into “Twitter fights” in such a public arena.
“Don’t badmouth your employer, your place of work or your colleagues,” Lindsay said. “It’s really immature, and it doesn’t demonstrate gravitas. Be tasteful.”
Primarily personal and used for communication between friends and family, Facebook is not often thought of as a tool for job seeking. That does not mean that employers aren’t looking at your Facebook profile, though.
In fact, it’s a good bet to assume that they are. According to mashable.com, 78 percent of recruiters check search engines and 63 percent check social media sites to find out more about potential hires.
Being smart about privacy settings and conscious about what kind of impression you’re giving to the world can help you to avoid posting or making available any content that you may regret sharing later.
Although Facebook gives many options to tailor privacy settings, they are complicated and can seem unclear. Educating yourself about how to use the settings is a great place to start. For example, make sure that your posts are set to “friends only” if you don’t want just anybody having access to your status updates and profile.
Even if you set your privacy settings high on Facebook, some content can still end up being public. Any photos that you are tagged in or content that has been shared with you may be viewable by anyone who searches your name.
“It’s a really delicate balance between being focused on your career and being able to perform, but also being an enjoyable human,” Lindsay said.
Choose carefully what you keep public, keeping in mind what will make you more appealing overall to an employer.
Although Facebook is the place for fun and casual photos, it’s best to avoid making a profile picture on Facebook a shot that you would be embarrassed to have your employer see. Even though it is your personal page, having a habit of posting negative sentiments, complaints, or inappropriate pictures can easily put off an employer.
Just because Facebook is used primarily for socializing doesn’t mean that it has no place in the search for your next job. Don’t be afraid to put the word out to your Facebook contacts that you’re on the hunt for a new position. Any networking is good networking, and you never know who among your Facebook friends may have a great lead for you.