Well into the second decade of the 21st century, most of us find ourselves racing down an increasingly rapid river of online information. Some of this information is dubious in value, but then again, much of it is more than useful. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are no longer considered mere time wasters, but forums for pertinent information to be shared and discussed among like-minded individuals and skeptics alike.
With the ever-increasing importance placed on social media, our online lives are becoming more elaborate— and therefore more accessible to hiring managers. It is becoming more and more important to maintain a strong online presence that showcases your strengths and good character. If and when potential employers Google your name, you want them to quickly and easily see what you’ve accomplished in the past and what you are capable of. You want to make the best possible impression should they decide to search social media as part of their screening process.
Below I discuss three of the most prominent social media platforms, and how they can be used to your advantage when trying to land a job and/or pursue a permanent career.
When it first rose to popularity, Twitter had a reputation for being nothing more than a silly way to pass the time—a forum for people to tell the world what movie they’re watching or what they’re eating. This has changed quite a bit in recent years; Twitter is now seen as an incredibly effective marketing tool that is useful not only to corporations and organizations, but individuals as well. Just as a company uses Twitter to market their latest product, an eager job hunter can use it to promote themselves as a desirable potential employee. When posting on Twitter, try to keep a friendly and upbeat attitude while at the same time maintaining a professional air. There’s nothing wrong with posting adorable pictures of your pets, but it’s important to balance content like that with thoughtful insights and worthwhile articles that are relevant to the field you aspire to enter.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that the last thing you want a hiring manager to see when Googling your name is a picture of you and your friends in a severely intoxicated state at some party. Unless you want to discredit yourself as the type of person who tends to call in “sick” after a night of carousing, you should untag yourself from any such unflattering photographs—even if the beer in your hand was your first one of the night, and the photo happened to be taken when you were mid-blink. It is essential to show yourself in a positive light because you want potential employers to see you as having strong moral character, someone they can rely on. Try to share the same type of interesting insights and online content that form the backbone of a solid Twitter account. Avoid dirty jokes or angry rants involving a deluge of curse words—we’ve all seen these on Facebook, and I can’t imagine they make a good impression on any hiring manager.
LinkedIn is a fantastic way to promote yourself. It allows you to build a personal profile that displays all of your past accomplishments and marketable skills. Upon joining this strictly professional social network, spend some time making your profile as complete as possible—list all of your formal education, work experience and volunteer experience as well as your skills. You can also list languages you speak, organizations you belong to, honours and awards, and causes you believe in. Connect with current and past family members, employers, coworkers, classmates and professors. After you’ve made a few connections, endorse them for skills that you know they possess and a few of them will likely return the favour. LinkedIn lets people write recommendations for each other, which works the same way as a reference on a resumé, except a LinkedIn recommendation is more readily accessible to a potential employer than one acquired through a telephone call (which many hiring managers will not bother to make). LinkedIn can be used to establish a line of communication as well; I once landed a freelance assignment by simply sending a direct message to someone letting him know I was looking for work.
Don’t underestimate the usefulness of these social media platforms when it comes to getting your name out there. If maintaining an attractive online presence even slightly helps your odds of landing a job, it is well worth your time to keep it up.