Being Socially Smart: Advice for College Seniors
You’ve finished the first semester, 2014 is over and you’ve been celebrating because, well, you deserve it.
Your grades are right where you want them, your roster of leadership and volunteer activities is ever-increasing, your resume is polished and you’ve been networking since forever. As you transition into spring semester, the hunt for your next job/internship/externship is on. But what if a few words or an image could derail all of this? All of your hard work, talent, dedication, time…rendered useless. What if you are actually the person derailing it? And worse yet, what if you don’t even realize it?
Let’s talk about your social media. Social media is one of the most important parts of your brand..yes, you’ve got one. And surprisingly some students don’t recognize this..to their detriment. For some, it’s an afterthought. For others it’s given no thought. Some may think of social media as personal...merely self expression among friends. Personal views on social media aside, the moment it is accessible on the internet, it’s no longer private.
Having spent ten years in private investigations, I can tell you that social media searches are a huge part of corporate due diligence and pre-employment investigations. Be careful. Real decisions are based on the information people find researching a candidate…and have no doubt that they will research. If you are applying for a job, internship, externship, volunteer position, scholarship, grad school, board position, tutor/mentor position, etc. someone will likely research you. Even your potential dates are looking you up.
But it’s not just potential employers. Perhaps even more importantly for you it’s recruiters and hiring managers who may be looking for you even if you haven’t applied to a job. According to a 2013 JobVite study, “94% of recruiters use or plan to use social media in their recruitment efforts and 78% of recruiters have made a hire through social media.”
A nationwide survey conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder found “that nearly two in five companies (39 percent) use social networking sites to research job candidates, up from 37 percent last year.” Additionally, the study found that “more than two in five (43 percent) hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate, up 9 percentage points from last year.” The line between personal and professional space is blurred. You will be professionally assessed against your personal content.
Managing your social media is a life skill not just a job skill. People view social media as providing a raw, unfiltered look at someone. What are people seeing when they look at what they think is the ‘real you’? After all, it’s your content. You are creating it, publishing it and disseminating it. Even if you feel it’s an invasion of “privacy” and you shouldn’t be judged on it, it’s the “you” they are seeing.
Your digital footprint is your virtual first impression. So, take a moment to think about yours. What does your digital footprint say about you? Is your social media working for you? Against you? Is it doing anything at all for you?
Can anybody find you? Are you visible? Would anybody want you if they found you? When someone hires you, they are hiring all of you not just your exceptional talent. That person is hiring a human being that will be part of a team within a company culture and you will become a reflection of the organization. So, what does your virtual resume say? If you neutralized yourself by deleting your posts and photos then it’s a blank page, it says nothing. Sterile doesn’t persuade employers that you should be on their team. Show and tell who you are. You have to be persuasive. If you’ve shut down your social media completely or are using a fake name you are missing opportunities. Be authentic. Convince potential employers that you would be a stellar addition to their team and would mesh well with other employees.
Now, it’s time to brand yourself. Leverage your social media and create a brand that people want.
Derogatory, bigoted, aggressive, antisocial behavior is unacceptable. Does your social media contain any of the above? Have any of your friends posted questionable material on your profiles? Think of any misbegotten tags and shares. Remember, recruiters or potential employers don’t actually know you so don’t assume that they will understand your content or give you the benefit of the doubt. Will they get that those were just lyrics you posted? Would that matter to them? Use common sense. You would never badmouth a recruiter or the company that you just interviewed with right? Sounds like a terrible idea..but you’d be surprised what people broadcast. Remember, social media is social. You have an audience..and if your privacy settings are lax it may be pretty public. What if a questionable or adverse picture or post never went away? What if that was the first thing that appeared when someone googled you? Could you live with it? Consider the permanence of your social media. Once you post something you often lose control of it. Even if your privacy settings are airtight, your friends’ may not be. It can be shared and reposted instantaneously.
Scan your sites for evidence of drug use, alcohol abuse, aggressive or overtly sexual behavior and any signs of social intolerance. Edit. Would you have a resume full of spelling and grammatical mistakes? Would you go to an interview looking sloppy or dirty? Is NYUStud@aol.com the best email address you can think of? If your social media is a mess, that may send the wrong message. So, clean up your social media. Stay competitive.
Once you’ve cleaned up your Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook, etc. you are not done. That’s just half the equation. Cleaning up gets you back to zero. But zero is not where you want to be. You want to stand out and get noticed. Ask the question again. Is your social media doing anything at all for you? Can anybody find you? You must be visible. No one can hire you if they can’t find you. Are you on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? Do you have a website? A blog?
So, what does your virtual resume say? If it’s a blank page, it says nothing. Sterile doesn’t persuade employers that you should be on their team. Show and tell who you are. You have to be persuasive. If you’ve shut down your social media completely or are using a fake name you are missing opportunities. Be authentic. Convince potential employers that you would be a stellar addition to their team, solve their problems and would mesh well with other employees.
How can you convince them? What should people know about you? What have you accomplished? What are your skills? How can you help them? Show and tell how you are a valuable asset. Have you won any competitions? Are you a leader? Do you volunteer? Telling is powerful but showing can be even more compelling. Use text and media to highlight your attributes while sharing your story and building your brand.
What does your Linkedin profile look like? It should be filled out as completely as possible. You must have a picture. Look professional. Fill out the summary, education, skills, awards, etc. Write recommendations for people you’ve worked with. Like companies, follow your school, connect with people, alumni, recruiters, and join groups. Reach out and engage. Whether it’s with people, companies, recruiters, current employees, etc.
What about Google+? Have a website, great? Get yourself out there! Do you blog? If you have a portfolio, is it online? If not, don’t worry just get busy. Find the best ways to showcase your skills. Get on Twitter, Pinterest, etc. and link your various profiles to one another. Use Pheed and Tumblr to highlight your creative side.
Be mindful of everything you share and update regularly. So, think about your social media. Are you doing everything you can to stand out, get yourself noticed and get you into that interview or meeting or applicant pool? Are you easy to connect with? Remember, people will mine their connections for new connections, employees, volunteers, interns, mentors, etc. Continue to refine your social media and brand.
It’s tough out there so give yourself every advantage you can. Ongoing management of your social media is crucial. At Social Assurity, we say if people are looking, give them something to see. Your social media is one of your biggest assets.
Second semester has barely started, the weather is cold so get going. You’ve got this!
At Social Assurity we say if people are looking, give them something to see. Your social media is one of your biggest assets.