Is social media killing your career? How to present yourself when you’re looking for work

Is social media helping you to get job? Or killing your career? Find out how to present yourself online when you’re looking for work.

I recently read an article published on Forbes by a young millennial about careers and career expectations for 20-somethings. The article was good, and despite some grammar and spelling issues, they made a few valid points.

At the bottom of the article were links to this person’s social media accounts, so I thought I would be supportive and give them a follow on twitter — one careers writer to another.

I clicked the link to their Twitter account and immediately changed my mind. While the article they had written gave some impression of professionalism and articulation, there was a huge mismatch between this and what was on display on their Twitter feed.

Is social media your friend – or your enemy?

It made me think back to countless career sessions and workshops with young people I’ve had, discussing this particular issue. Social media can be a great thing — especially in the world of looking for work, networking and finding opportunities.

A few statistics for you: According to CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment survey, in 2016 60% of employers used social networking sites to research job candidates, up significantly from 52% last year, 22% in 2008, and 11% in 2006.

It’s no secret that employers look up potential candidates online, so make sure what’s available is what you want them to see – and that social media is your friend, not your enemy!

How to present yourself on social media when looking for work

What counts the most is how you present yourself. Here’s a re-visit of some top tips I’ve shared before about presenting yourself on social media when looking for work.

1) Check what information is available

It sounds quite straight forward, but make sure you’re aware of exactly what information is available should someone look you up on social media or via a Google search. Privacy and accessibility settings have changed quite a lot across different social media platforms, so old posts and photos that may have been private could now be viewed.

I recently asked a colleague who wasn’t on my friend list on Facebook to look me up and see what they could view on my profile and was surprised by the amount that was still available. Make sure what’s accessible is what you want everyone, including potential employers, to see.

2) Update your privacy settings regularly

This ties in quite nicely with the above. Make sure that old posts are limited and check the options by which people can search for you. If you have a personal Twitter account, have a think about whether what you’re tweeting is something you would want a potential employer to be reading.

If it isn’t, make sure your tweets are set to private. Various sites allow individuals to search for you via different contact means — your mobile or email address — check whether this is something you want against your account.​​

3) Use appropriate profile photos

Even if all your privacy settings are in place, your profile picture is viewable to everyone (so it’s probably not a good idea to have one of you drunk in a club or doing something illegal).

An appropriate profile picture can make all the difference — and sets a good impression from the get go. Using the same photo across all your social media will help to set a standard and make you recognisable across all the relevant media you want people to see (blogs, articles etc).

4) Make sure you know who you’re connected with

When you’re creating a professional presence, it can be easy to get carried away connecting with anyone that requests it,  but make sure everyone you’re connecting with is someone you want to have access to your profile.

Check into anyone that’s adding you as a contact — social media has made networking a lot easier and viable, just make sure their profession matches what you’re looking for professionally.

5) Create a professional presence

From writing a blog and online articles, to having a professional Twitter account and adding to online debates/commenting on relevant blogs, it’s a great idea to build up a positive, professional online presence that will stand out should an employer decide to look you up.

So think about creating separate professional accounts that are open publicly to those you want to see it, and keep the personal accounts private for your own use.

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Make sure your personal brand ‘adds up’ on social media

If you’re placing yourself in a position with opinions on different matters, and wanting to grow a ‘personal brand’ (as it’s now referred to), what you say and how you present yourself in public spaces, such as social media, has to match up.

I’m always looking for good writers to work with, or recommend to the sites I write for, and I do check social media for this. I know a lot of employers do the same. If you’re applying for work or scoping for opportunities and not being successful, it might be worth checking what people can find out about you before they pick up the phone.

Elaine Mead is a passionate education and careers consultant, and is particularly interested in empowering young women to be their professional best. You can follow her on Twitter and read more of her articles on medium.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash