,   |  February 4, 2014

How social media can affect your job search

One of the first things you should do when you embark on a job search is get your privacy settings under control across social media channels. Even while it becomes more and more common for people to have a public “online brand”, it may not be how you want your future employer to make their first impression. But… social media can affect your job search in a big way even if you’re completely “private”.

Today I want to talk about the people in your networks… and how they may have a bigger impact than you think on your job search. Here are a few things worth thinking about:

Are your friends really your friends?

The first step in knowing this impact is looking who you’re connected to and are they really your friends? I notice that most people have a pretty loose definition of who a friend is when it comes to Facebook as an example. When you think about that network, how many “friends” actually know what you are up to/doing/thinking outside of the Facebook community? In my case (as is probably the case of many others), it’s a fairly low percentage.

In the case of acquaintances, what is the overall perception you are giving off?

If it’s true that a high percentage of your network (let’s call them acquaintances) only know what you’re all about based on your status updates, photos uploaded, and wall posts, what is their overall perception of you? If you sit with a group of people with Facebook friends in common, it’s funny how you can say something like, “Okay, this person is obsessed with baking,” and that alone will trigger someone to know exactly who you are talking about.

Obsessed with baking… not a bad thing at all. What about, “This person only posts pictures of herself drinking” or, “This person seems to flaunt money” or, “This person wears really skimpy clothing every weekend”? Are you that person to your acquaintances?

This is my personal social media, why should I care?

Well, on the one hand you are who you are, and if you choose to post something to 500 people on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. let’s assume you stand behind that post. However, your social networks might not always be “social,” and that’s when your social “brand” could start to hinder you.

There might be someone in there that you haven’t spoken to since high school who happens to work at your dream company. When they think of you, will they remember the you from five years ago and your personal interactions, or the you they’ve been seeing on Facebook for the last five years? Again, what is that perception they’ve gotten based on the social media persona?

Put yourself in that situation and the answer becomes clear. If someone you haven’t seen in years asks you to pass their resume along to your boss but they fall into that category of “bad Facebook impression,” how likely are you to give them a strong recommendation?  You’d probably be a lot less likely to vouch for them.

What’s the solution?

Of course it’s unreasonable to think to yourself, “Will people recommend me for a job based on this picture?” every time you upload to social media. That seems like overkill. What I’d suggest instead is to just be aware that even the things you share with your “friends” should accurately reflect who you are and what you’d like for people to perceive. Digital interactions are replacing traditional means of staying in touch, so even if your privacy settings are 100 percent buttoned up, think about your immediate network and their overall impression of you.

Your network (especially on social platforms like Facebook) will evolve over the years and you never know when you might want to call in a favor that will help you get your foot in the door. Make positive impressions, both online and offline, and you’ll be able to tap into that network for years to come.

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