Very often, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter serve as public diaries, where the rest of the world is subject to hearing about your everyday rants and mishaps—along with what you had for dinner. While many of these posts may seem harmless, they are ultimately contributing to a reflection of who you are and how you are perceived by the outside world looking in.
According to a 2012 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Recruiting Benchmark Survey, 80 percent of employers use social media to post jobs, and 61 percent of employers research potential candidates, which is up from 47 percent. Statistics like this help cement the truth; as technology expands and social media use increases, so does the chance of employers doing their research via Facebook or Twitter.
Although students may not have created a Facebook with networking in mind, it should also be considered for this purpose says Melissa Wardwell, Experiential Learning and Career Management (ELCM)’s Interim Director. In today’s digital age, students should use social media sites to develop a professional web persona.
“A good place to start is by making sure their profile portrays them in a positive light and presents a professional image,” says Wardwell. “Cover photos and profile photos are public, so both should represent a positive image. Good cover photos could be an image of the student in a setting that shows engagement, involvement, leadership or something unique to them.”
Students can use both Facebook and Twitter to their advantage. Staying consistent with the name you present to others is important; you do not want an employer guessing what to call you. By maintaining a strong and active presence on these sites, employers will recognize your awareness and engagement in the community and world you live in. Sharing information, forwarding articles and videos and updating your status regularly about your job search, events you have attended, or books you have read are all ways to do this, says Wardwell.
Instead of becoming afraid to post anything anymore, “think twice, post once,” says Wardwell. Things to avoid include whining, being disrespectful, displaying unprofessional photos, comments or tweets, forgetting to monitor your privacy settings or friend requesting an interviewer.
These platforms also provide connection opportunities. For example, Twitter offers the option of following TwitJobSearch or TweetMyJobs. Facebook has a Social Jobs Partnership App that collaborates between Facebook, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), DirectEmployers Association (DE), and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA). By “liking” this partnership, students can seek job and internships across five different search engines, says Wardwell.
“Many companies and brands have Facebook pages, and students can use these to see what is happening in the company and get a sense of the culture and what matters to them,” shares Wardwell. “This can be helpful with interview preparation. Perhaps they have an existing connection with a friend on Facebook that works at the organization or knows someone who does.”
Whether you believe it or not, using social media professionally is possible if done in the correct manner. By staying inactive but safe, students will be missing out on opportunities to share their accomplishments and any issues they passionately care about. So go ahead and post, tweet or share, because you never know what hidden talents will pique an employer’s interest.