I’ve been thinking about social media and professional image and am wondering whether it’s at all possible to project the image of being fun, exciting, adventurous, and carefree on social media while maintaining a professional, knowledgeable, and on-the-ball profile for your professional life. I’ll admit I’m not the best person to answer this question, as I’m one of these people who don’t particularly enjoy posting or following on social media. I do however appreciate that it’s an important issue, and I can see the impact social media is having all around me, starting with my own kids. I understand how a person’s social media presence can make a difference in a potential employer’s eyes, in a positive as well as a negative way.
And while I may personally long for simpler times when my kids didn’t live their lives through a social media filter and when applying for a job meant you needed a resume and some good references. I do understand that those times are not coming back. It appears the only way forward is to gain as much knowledge as possible and then adapt to the best of one’s ability, and desire. When it’s the case that your life in the virtual world is used as a gauge to measure your abilities in the real world, well then you better know what the general rules and tendencies are.
It does raise some questions: what do employers look for on social media when determining a potential candidate’s employability? How do you know where to draw the line between what you share and don’t, whom you follow and how you comment on content? Will everything you post weigh on your employability scale? What should you be particularly mindful of?
There is plenty of information the be gleaned once you start poking around the internet. Maybe the first thing to know is that social media can be a strong self-promotional tool and that many recruiters do indeed use these sites to search for suitable future employees.
A study by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 65% of employers had made hires through social media sites. It’s important to note however that not every industry is equally interested in social media as a tool for hiring. As one can expect, fields such as communications and public relations have a much higher rate of social media importance than say transportation and construction.
The same study reports the following two categories as by far the most important in order to maintain an attractive online profile: “Have a complete and relevant profile” (77%) and “Keep it professional” (73%). Keeping it professional may seem at odds with being able to use your Facebook account to keep up with friends and family in order to share what’s going on in your life. I think the best advice given here is to stay away from the very private — pictures and comments alike, and also to make sure these parts of your life are restricted to the maximum friends-only security setting. Or, just adhere to the tried and true idea of: “if it’s not something you can share with your mother, then don’t share it all”.
Many surveys point to the importance of joining career-relevant groups and making sure you have a clear link to your email address — there is nothing quite as frustrating as not being able to find the right contact information, and it certainly doesn’t add to an image of professionalism. Also, and this may sound obvious, it’s important to use correct grammar and spelling.
Other points that are worth keeping in mind, are to not complain about current or past employers and to refrain from posting offensive and inappropriate material. Obviously, what is offensive and inappropriate to one person may not be so to another. In the end, we are all left with a judgment call, so, take a deep breath, double-check, triple think and then press enter.
By: Felicia Shermis