Just as in the college admission process, social media can either help or hurt you in your job search. Whether you like it or not, everything you do on social media leaves a trail of electronic breadcrumbs that employers can follow all the way back to an immature tweet or a less-than-flattering spring break pic. That’s why it’s important to edit and closely monitor your online presence both during your job search and once you’ve secured a position. You may not be able to pick up all of those crumbs you’ve left around the Internet over the years, but here are a few do’s and don’ts that will help you tidy up your online personna and harness the power of social media in your job search.
- Do set up a LinkedIn account, if you haven’t already. Sign up for LinkedIn and make yourself shine. Post a polished résumé and a summary about your experience that uses keywords that will lead employers to you. Then start networking. LinkedIn can help you shift your job search from looking for positions to connecting you to people. And you know what they say: it’s all who you know.
- Do find ways to use social media to showcase your talents. Start a blog to show off your way with words. Join discussions in LinkedIn groups and other online forums and demonstrate your knowledge of a particular field. You could even post pictures of your work on Twitter or Instagram. Start thinking about social media as a way to make yourself stand out from all the other applicants.
- Do follow and interact with companies in your field. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a company that doesn’t at least have a Facebook or Twitter account. Follow the accounts of the companies where you’re applying so you can get an idea of what’s important to them and what their “personality” is like.
- Do start a Twitter account strictly for professional use. Twitter isn’t just for sharing twitpics of your dinner or following your favorite celebrities. It can be a powerful tool in your job search. Follow people and companies in your industry and interact with them by retweeting their tweets and sharing articles they might find useful.
- Do act as if you already have the job. A good rule of thumb is to behave online as if you already have the job you want and your boss is reading your every post.
- Do Google yourself. See what’s out there online when you Google your own name. You might find embarrassing or inappropriate things you forgot you posted back in high school, or pictures that friends posted without your knowledge. Find those things before an employer does and delete them.
- Don't leave your personal accounts open to the public. Lock down all of your social media accounts except for those you are using in a professional capacity. Facebook even has a feature that allows you to view your profile as the public sees it, so you can make sure potential employers only see what you want them to see.
- Don't post unprofessional pictures of yourself anywhere on the Web. No keg stands. No bikini shots. If you wouldn’t show a picture to your grandmother, don’t post it online (though perhaps you have a really free-spirited grandmother—in which case, just don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see).
- Don't post anything that could even possibly be interpreted as sexist, racist, lewd, or otherwise offensive anywhere on the Web. People have been fired as quickly as they were hired after their tweets were retweeted by vigilante Twitter feed @YesYoureRacist. Even if you think your accounts are all set to “private,” you should always be on your best behavior.
- Don't let your guard down once you’ve been hired. Once you’ve got the job, you still need to monitor your online presence. Be as discreet as possible about anything personal you post online, and remember that more than a few people have been fired over controversial or offensive comments they’ve posted on social media.
When used wisely, social media can help you find and land the job of your dreams. And as companies in a wide range of industries increasingly rely on social media to connect with the public and communicate with their employees, your knack for whipping up a clever tweet or your thoughtful contributions to LinkedIn group discussions can show employers that you’re comfortable using the language of the digital age. Just be sure your online image is squeaky clean.
Good luck with your job search!