Learn the basics of a few social media platforms.
LinkedIn may be the big player in the online professional networking world, but other forms of social media are even more popular. Facebook has the greatest number of users and frequency of use; almost 80% of internet users have a Facebook account, with almost 50% of us using it regularly. Other popular sites include YouTube (video sharing), Twitter (short 140-character “tweets”), Instagram (image sharing), Pinterest (content sharing), and Tumblr (blogs)—with YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram growing the fastest since 2014. As you engage with these sites, be aware that your social media presence has potential to help or harm your job search.
Like LinkedIn, these social media sites start with a profile. Pay attention to your privacy settings. Anything that you or friends post that is “public” can be found by a company or recruiter. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow you to lock down who can see your information—limiting viewers to approved “friends” or “followers.” Pinterest, YouTube, and Tumblr accounts are more commonly public, but also offer private options.
These steps will help avoid social media pitfalls that could harm your career.
- Ask yourself, “Would I want my posts to be seen by professional colleagues?”
- If the answer is no—and it is for most people chatting about news, politics, and dog antics on Facebook or sharing vacation pictures on Instagram—make sure your privacy settings are set to private. Look at photos or posts where a friend has “tagged” you. If their privacy settings are public, a recruiter might see that information. Ask the friend to remove tags from any posts that could raise red flags – like inappropriate photos, discriminatory comments, discussions about drug use, or bad-mouthing employers.
- If the answer is yes—you use the social media account for professional purposes—verify that your privacy settings allow public access. Delete any posts that don’t promote the type of professional image you want to portray.
- Make sure any posts you make to public boards—whether you’re chatting about politics, redecorating or car maintenance—are polite, helpful, and factual. Remember anyone can read public posts, and form opinions about you. One workaround is to consider using a non-identifiable user name for boards unrelated to your professional life.
Once you’ve eliminated the risk that your social media presence could harm your job search, take advantage of ways social media can help.
Follow companies and industry associations to track trends and learn about job openings. They often have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and may also have information about products or services on YouTube and Instagram.
Follow thought leaders and professionals at companies of interest, and offer insightful comments. See if you can build a relationship. Maybe they’ll follow you back or think of you when they hear of an opening!
- As noted earlier, let your friends or followers know when you’re looking for a new job or insights into a company or industry. You never know who might be able to help, or have a friend who can help.
- If you have a public account, post information that will attract followers in your field, cement your “brand,” and grow your network.
Participate in online conversations, posting original content and links to your personal profile or blog to draw in new followers.
Networking is an important part of managing your career, and following these tips will help you master it.
Tip: Protect your privacy
Online networking is vital and helpful, but be sure you don’t give scammers an opportunity to steal your valuable personal information.
- Set passwords that are hard to guess. No names of family members or pets. No special dates like your birthday and anniversary. Nothing easy to guess like “password” or “12345.” Find a word or phrase that means something to you, so it’s easy for you to remember but hard for anyone to guess. Including letters, numbers, and symbols will make your password safest.
- Protect valuable information. Never put your social security number, mother’s maiden name, birth date, or bank account information in your online resume or a social media profile.
- Be aware of “phishing” scams, where someone might impersonate a potential employer and reach out to you, claiming to need your social security number to conduct a background check, or your bank account information to set up direct payment. Confirm through your own research and by contacting the company to ensure the person is indeed approaching you with a real job offer.
- Don’t accept every friend or follower request. If you get follower or friend requests from a stranger, look at their profile to assess whether they are real or simply trying to access your profile and contacts. Finding little content or few connections are red flags.
- Verify questionable job ads with a simple Google search, entering the company name and “scam” or “complaints” to see if you should be wary.