We’ve all heard the horror stories: a job applicant gets turned down because her potential employer discovered her objectionable tweets and rude posts, or even saw photos of her risqué birthday outfit on Facebook - for this reason we’re often flooded with advice about keeping our online activity private, so that it doesn’t hurt future job prospects.
However, what if we could use our personal platforms for good? By handling them correctly and showcasing only the best of ourselves, is there not every reason to suggest that social media channels could in fact help progress our professional careers?
“Absolutely - but with some caution,” says Managing Director of Personal Career Management , Corinne Mills . “Social media is the most fantastic resource for anyone who wants to progress and these days you really have to be a part of it if you care about getting a job - otherwise you get overlooked.”
In previous years if you were interested in a job, a CV and a cover letter sent via email were most applicants best methods of reaching out to firms. Nowadays however, the world is well and truly dialled in with most, if not all companies having their own public and accessible platforms for you to engage with.
“There’s so much information we can access now,” says Corinne. “With companies having their own social media platforms, in particular Linkedin pages, we can learn so much more than from their website - who works there, general business updates and even upcoming events.” As a result, prepping for an interview or putting together an application is made that much easier with company profiles and employee directories allowing us to research influential people in the company, or whether you may already have any existing connections.
The problem however, lies not with what you can discover, but what outsiders can discover about you. “These days recruiters and employers will use social media platforms to assess applicants suitability and sniff out any risks they may present,” says Corinne. “Things such as whether your qualifications match up, if you’ve ever posted anything offensive or even if you’ve ever joked about throwing a ‘sickie’. In a nutshell, are you somebody who understands and respects both the professional and personal boundaries?”
What about freedom of speech and the right to post your drunken friday night photos we hear you cry!? Well, we’re not suggesting that all personal posting needs to stop - just be savvy about how you go about it. “If you want to keep your channels personal, then adjust the privacy settings and adopt a pseudonym or nickname - to stop potential employers from still being able to trace you,” says Corinne. “In particular you have to be careful with Facebook because even though your own profile may be set to private, being tagged in a picture or post by somebody else will still cause you to be searchable. It’s also a good idea to google yourself monthly, just to make sure you’re not showing up anywhere and no information is slipping through the net.”
It’s not always a witch hunt though, says Corinne, “recruiters will also use social media to discover the best candidates that the world has to offer. They actively shop for potential employees and approach people they find on different platforms - sometimes even those who haven’t applied to an advert - people who haven’t even thought about it. This is why it’s essential that you sign yourself up to sites such a Linkedin and Twitter - because you’re either missing the adverts these companies and recruiters are putting out, or you end up reducing your chances of being plucked from obscurity and placed into your dream job - essentially allowing yourself to fade into the background.”
So, armed with the knowledge of this social media etiquette, what can you do to ensure you make the most out of your social sites? Here are Corinne’s top five tips:
1. Start with creating your Linkedin profile - this is the most important site for seeking career progress. Get a professional looking photo - no holiday snaps - this is your advert in the professional community and job market so it has to represent you at work.
2. Sell yourself - don’t just be factual, giving dull facts. Create it like you would a CV - make it achievement orientated, listing any success you may have had in your previous careers. Make it as detailed as possible - this is your space to present yourself and your amazing capabilities.
3. Make yourself visible - once your profile is up and running don’t become static. Share articles or information that you find interesting or important - this will go out to your network contacts and tells people something a little bit about you and that you care about life issues. It’s also a good idea to take part in discussion groups or forums, especially if they’re associated with or similar to the career or job sector you’re looking to enter. Commenting something positive shows that you’re involved with and engaged in your chosen community.
4. Get endorsements - you can’t do this on your cv which is what makes social platforms sometimes more recommendable. Praise counts so much more when it comes from elsewhere. Get as many quotes as you can from ex bosses, current boss, colleagues - anyone who’s reputable and who’s worked with you.
5. Network - there’s lots of research that shows people who are better connected experience progression a lot quicker. The beauty of sites such as Linkedin is that unlike in face to face scenarios, there are people who you might not have seen for ten years but it’s still perfectly acceptable to send them a friend request and benefit from their links. Try to build up connections with as many people as possible - colleagues, friends, ex-colleagues, any professional association you may be part of - it’s a super fast way to find out about a new job and you never know when you might eventually come across someone who’s working when you’d like to move to.