A look at social media in the job search
Social media and one’s online “presence” is often discussed in conjunction with the job search. “What can employers see?” is a question I hear all the time, since it’s a pretty common belief that they will in fact be looking.
I won’t disagree with that. Of course, it’s always a good idea to look at your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook privacy settings and make sure the information that is “public” won’t reflect poorly on you as a candidate if an employer were to look. Lots of these channels are used for social (not professional) reasons, so making sure certain information is only accessible to your “friends” is one important piece of the puzzle.
However, in this article I want to discuss the implications of what you do put out there to your “friends” and how that might have an impact 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 at how you define “friends.” I notice that most people have a pretty loose definition of who a friend is when it comes to Facebook. 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 beer,” 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 shouldn’t; you are who you are, and if you choose to post something to 500 people on Facebook, let’s assume you stand behind that post. However, your Facebook network might not always be “social,” even if it is today.
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 Facebook 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 Facebook. 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 (even 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.