By Andreas Mertin
It’s the usual story: you meet someone you think is ‘totes-amazeballs-awesome’ and want to know more about them. You want to get in touch, so you check if they’re on social media. They are. Woohoo! Not only can you get in touch, you can get a better idea of them (you never know, they could be a crazy cat person, and that wouldn’t work with your fur allergy).
Now imagine you’re running a start-up, or a big law firm, or a government department, and have been conducting interviews all day for a new graduate level position. Why wouldn’t you do the same? Fact is, employers do, and they may not be as forgiving as you’d hope.
The good news is this is all in your control, and with a few simple tips in mind you can make sure that your online presence is as employable as the physical you. The great news is that this isn’t all doom and gloom. Cleaning up your online presence will not only remove potential obstacles from your employment path, but it can actually enrich your chances.
Feel like sharing? No? Then restrict!
So those photos of you wasted at Dave’s place last night are hilarious (wearing that ottoman as a hat was pure genius!), and that poem you wrote about why your last boss was the real life Mr. Burns (with Spongebob references and all) is too good not to share. And why shouldn’t you? It shows your personality. But could it stop you from getting that job? You may think it’s blurring the lines between personal and professional, but social media is the blurring of the lines between the private and public. That’s why it’s a really smart move to curate what you share and with whom you are sharing it, because these lines have become inherently blurry.
If you’re the type that wants to keep your personal and professional lives separate, it may be worthwhile creating separate accounts for different purposes – keeping some for personal and others for professional use. An obvious choice is a LinkedIn page for professional purposes. This also has the advantage of often being the first result employers will see if they Google you. But employers won’t stop there, with Facebook and Twitter still being the two most commonly checked sites.
So either make sure your profiles are tidy, or lock them down so that only those chosen few can see. Facebook actually has a “list” function that you can use to restrict the posts you want any professional contacts to see, and it’s worth checking your other social media channels for similar functions.
Curate your social media presence, even when you aren’t looking for a job.
Curating doesn’t just mean removing uncomplimentary material or restricting who you are sharing things with. It’s also making sure that what you are sharing corresponds with your employment history, and develops your presence as employable. Look at your CV and social media pages to make sure they link. You don’t want to say you spent the end of 2016 working in a school in Ghana and have a snap of you going wild at a David Guetta in Amsterdam at the same time. But this isn’t just about fact checking or removing content likely to contribute to a rejected application, but about creating content that includes positive impressions of your personality and demonstrates your creativity and good communication skills.
One of the ways you can do this is by selecting the best platform to represent your skills. Going for a something in media? A Vimeo or YouTube account would be great options. Design? How about Instagram or Pinterest (click here for more tips) . Not only will future employers no longer see your unique hat choices, but having dedicated channels for employment also means you can more actively engage with your industry, which will help with networking and knowing what’s going on.
You can even use these to actively search for jobs, using hashtags like #recruiting, #hiring, #joblisting to find jobs on Twitter. Just remember, social media is communication: it’s a two-way street. You may be looking for a job, but employers are also looking at what you can offer them. You can use these platforms to communicate directly with followers, industry professionals and the people you just had an interview with. Your social media channels can help make it known that you are looking for new challenges, and give potential employers a little something extra to think about that you may not have been able to say in the interview.
That’s right, it’s time to Google yourself.
You may have all your social media stuff in order and have the perfectly curated social media presence. But what about that blog you contributed to a couple of years ago where you waxed poetic about the benefits of carrots over turnips? Or that YouTube video where you dressed your cat as a street magician. These can all potentially show up.
Need some more help? QUT has a great interactive guide you can use to create a better online you. It’s a quick and easy way to assess your social media activity and offers feedback based on how your answers rate against the average response. Responses and feedback are supported by cited articles. It then offers tips at the end, including links to external articles and learning modules. It also shows you some techniques you can use to exert a degree of control over what appears in your Google search.
Finding employment is tough and you just spent 3 or more years developing your skills and attributes to get that dream job. Spending a little time curating your online presence is a great way of communicating your abilities to future employers. Think of it as an online CV, except that there are no rules. You can curate it in any way that develops your image for potential employers. It is not something to be shunned and hidden in the corner, but embraced as a vital tool in your hunt for employment.
Andreas Mertin is an Information Services Librarian at UTS Library looking after the School of Communication.