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How To Use Social Media To Help—Not Hurt—Your Career


Note from David: It’s been a while since we’ve talked about career issues on Money Under 30, so we’re going to fix that this week.

Today, I asked Amber to write about how you can use social networking accounts to help your career. (At the very least, if your Facebook profile photo includes a Solo cup, it’s time to change it.) But we’ll go way past that to help you take some simple steps that will up your online presence in ways that could pay off big at work down the road. And later this week check back for my post “How NOT to apply for a job”.  Speaking from experience hiring people, I’ll share some things you can do that will make you better than 95% of your competition when you apply for a job.  Until then, here’s Amber:

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True story: I was at work the other day chatting on the phone with a colleague. As our conversation was wrapping up, he said “Oh, by the way; I Googled your name the other day when I was looking for your e-mail address. I found your Twitter account and blog.

It was the first time my two worlds had collided: my online career and my “real-world” career.

Aside from being flattered that somebody Googled me, my colleague’s discovery was a wake-up call . We simply cannot ignore the impact social media has on our real-life and, in particular, our career.

YOU WILL BE GOOGLED 

Has somebody in your work world Googled you? Share your story in a comment. If it hasn’t happened yet, you simply have to expect that—if they want to—anyone can and will find you online.

Today, Facebook has over 800 million users and Twitter isn’t far behind with 200 million.

But social media isn’t just about tweeting a picture of your dog’s new sweater or tagging your  friend in an embarrassing picture on Facebook.  Recruiters and employers are using Facebook and other social media to monitor employees, discover new talent, and even make hiring decisions.

Although it should be obvious that being sloppy with what you post on Facebook could  cost you a job. Many party photos have cost candidates job offers or worse, gotten employees fired. Others have been dooced: fired because of their blog or Website.

But even though there are things in your social media profile that can hurt your career, social media can help your career.  

1. PREPARE YOUR SOCIAL ACCOUNTS

In 2011, 89% of companies will use social media networks for recruiting according to the infographic below by CareerEnlightenment.com.

Job-Searching-with-Social-Media-Infographic1

That means that nearly 9 out of 10 companies are now recruiting via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. Getting involved with these companies via these networks can help you spot new positions and connect with employees who can refer you to new positions or even to hiring managers themselves.

In addition to recruiting online, once you actually apply for a job, there’s a 20% chance that your prospective employer will research you on various social media networks.

This means that you’ve got to do two essential things if you’re on the job hunt:

  1. Clean up your social media networks. Be perfectly comfortable having a potential employer see everything on your profile. Do NOT assume that just because a scandalous photo is shared “by friends only” that an employer won’t see it.
  2. Get connected with potential employers. If you have a certain company in mind—or already applied for a job there— follow that company on Twitter, “Like” them on Facebook, or get connected with them on LinkedIn to increase your chances of being noticed.

2. CREATE A DIGITAL RESUME

The traditional black-and-white, one-page resume is out; digital resumes are in.

If you’re searching for jobs and you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, it’s time to get one. Signing up is easy and free and will give you access to thousands of employers.

If you want to impress future employers, consider a personal website. You can easily buy your own domain name and upload a picture, short bio, with links to your contact information or LinkedIn profile. And in some creative professions, it’s almost a sin not to have an online portfolio.

Companies already know you’re online. Why not use this knowledge to your advantage and give them even more reasons to hire you to their company?

3. BUILD A NETWORK, A BRAND, OR EVEN SIDE INCOME

We all know building side income or working multiple jobs is a great tool to further your finances.  But what you may not realize is that you can leverage this experience in your full-time career.

Being “in” with others in your career field on social media sites is the latest and greatest form of networking. It’s almost like you have two presences these days: your real-life presence and your online presence. If you’re not available in both ways, you may miss out on an opportunity or meeting your next mentor.

Like many people that work part-time online, I’ve been able to build my brand and freelance work through my online presence. Sure, I send out random tweets at times, but I’ve also secured freelance jobs, connected with top people in my line of work, networked with like-minded people, won prizes, and even had a little fun along the way.

Something You Can’t Ignore

Social media isn’t something we can ignore anymore. It’s a movement that has changed that way people interact with one another. Like anything else, it has its flaws, but it can also create a whole new world of opportunity if you use it to your advantage.

Have you used social media to help your career? Been Googled by an employer before? Were you prepared? Let us know your story in a comment.

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About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @ambergilstrap.

Comments

  1. Social media has never helped my career, nor has it ever hindered it. However, I was talking my mom about this and she said that where she works, they have fired people based off of what they have said on the internet. Be careful with what you say!

  2. I’ve been Googled before. If anything it gave me an authoritative appearance, but some employers didn’t like that I was so forward and vocal (plus that I used my name and picture everywhere). It’s ok, though, because if they are that uptight and old-fashioned, it wouldn’t have been a good fit anyway.

  3. Us media types have known this for a while – we are our own brand, after all, but there are definitely many who are just too wary of putting themselves out there and so stay away from social media! At the very least though, I think having a LinkedIn profile is a must for anyone these days. (And you really do need to know the bare basics, as social media is likely to be part of your job to some degree.)

    But building your presence online isn’t just beneficial for journos/PRs/marketing/advertising types – people in all industries can make the most of it.

  4. Yes, minus the fact that I have an out of date YouTube video out there. Definitely lock your Facebook down to friends only and set up a LinkedIn account. Then Google yourself to see what comes up.

  5. Companies definitely check your profiles when hiring. It’s a quick and easy way to see what you are all about beyond the practiced interview speech you give in the face to face interview.

    My father is a regional manager at a Fortune 500 company, and he has one of his young employees check each potential new hire’s Facebook acct. He has actually had 2 cases where he was going to offer positions to people until he looked at their Facebook accounts. One guy had a post on his wall about how he and his friend got “so high” the night before. The other guy had nothing but photos of him drinking, smoking, and passed out in various places. Needless to say, neither of them got the job. Also the industry that he is in is a small club, and I guarantee those two are blackballed for the foreseeable future.

    My rules are simple:
    – Lock down security so only people you designate can see your profile.
    – Un-tag yourself from any pictures you would not show your mom
    – Keep business and personal separate. I do not accept Facebook friend requests from co-workers, period. They can connect with me on Linkedin.

    • David Weliver says:

      “Un-tag yourself from any pictures you would not show your mom”

      Ha! That’s always been my rule too. I try not to let them get out there in the first place, but it happens…

    • I’ve also used my gmail account to set up an “alert” on my name, so I can see anything that posts online associated with me. I started this as an identity theft/personal security awareness tip, because awareness only works when you put the effort in to GET that awareness. Any time a websearch turns up my name (whether its actually me or not, I’ve got a relatively uncommon name…) I get an email so I can see what’s out there in cyberspace. Upon my initial search, I was actually shocked to see my name and photos from high school events–when I was a minor–and knew that my parents had never signed a consent form. This goes for you folks with kids too…you can never be too careful when it comes to limiting the information available to potential cybercriminals.