When you apply for a job or a promotion, there’s a good chance that a recruiter, HR person or your next potential boss will search for information about you online. Instead of just looking at your CV, they’ll be able to judge you based on the content you have created about yourself on the web and social media.
The problem is that many people, especially if they are just entering the job market, tend to view social media as exactly that – social. So their online “brand” hasn’t been created with the job application process in mind. But that, says Nicki Dadic , a freelance social media manager, is their first mistake.
“This kind of information is a gold mine to recruiters,” she says. “Of course you’re going to put your best foot forward in interviews, but your social profile will give them a sense of who you really are so you’d better make sure it tells them a story you want them to hear.”
She provides the following suggestions for managing your personal brand online:
Facebook offers you the option of allowing the following people to see your content: Everyone, Friends, Friends of Friends or Custom (meaning you can set specific people or groups yourself). You can set this as an overall setting for your entire profile, or for individual posts. This easy-to-understand article explains how.
Facebook will automatically make the following information available, no matter what your settings: your name, your profile photo and the networks you are a part of. So be sure that your photo is clean, and that you’re not a member of any controversial networks.
Accept professional friend requests with caution and always remember who is part of your social network.
Even with all of your privacy settings adjusted to your liking, remember that you can’t ever count on anything online being completely private, so it’s worth remembering the “what would my boss think?” rule for every post you make.
Employers should understand, however, that Facebook is a personal space, so stories about your gym workout, your hobbies or causes that you support are fine. It’s great to post a picture of a sunset and a motivational post (if you’re that way inclined), but certainly not to have a photo of drunken you dancing on a bar counter. While it is your social space, you should also be cautious about being too outspoken on religion or politics. And don’t complain about being sick too often or gripe about work for obvious reasons.
Go through your entire photo history and as far back as you can reasonably manage in your posts and delete any problematic content and photos and untag yourself from friends’ photos that don’t paint you in a flattering light.
Also, carry out a search for your name on Google. There’s not much you can do if your name or photo comes up in a problematic link, other than asking whoever put it there to remove it, but at least you can do damage control if you know about it. If you can find a way to flood the internet with content about you, you can sometimes knock those problematic stories out of their first place in the search rankings.
While LinkedIn might not be the most exciting channel socially, it’s fantastic for building your professional brand and network online. Make sure that your career information is up to date and carefully edited (try to make sure your grammar and punctuation is clean wherever you are posting), and try to post interesting content – either original or shared – frequently.
Please have a professional photograph to go with your LinkedIn profile!
Gone are the days when your CV was a simple black and white document, listing all your jobs and achievements in chronological order. You can build an online CV, populated with images, references and a portfolio (obviously this is vital for people in visual or media jobs) on VisualCV or vizualizeme. Or you can take it a step further by launching your own website on easy-to-manage platforms like Wordpress or Wix.
Depending on your industry, you can also create Pinterest boards to show off your designs, podcasts to broadcast your voice talent or YouTube videos to showcase your presentation skills.
It’s a great idea to tinker around with these sites and services to get comfortable with them, but please don’t go public with anything until it looks really clean and professional.
It’s also a good idea to have a Twitter and Instagram presence – especially if you are trying to break into a media or marketing career. Remember all the rules about posting on Facebook, bearing in mind that Twitter and Instagram are even more public (unless you have a closed account, but then, what’s the point?). If you’ve been a bit of a loose cannon in the past, go back and clean up your history.
Remember, it’s fine to express your personal interests or hobbies – marathon running photos or food snaps are fine (no matter what anyone says!).
A blog is another fantastic way to express yourself and build your brand online. Of course, you have to have something to say, it has to be the right sort of thing, and you have to keep posting. A two-post blog from 2013 isn’t doing you any favours. You don’t have to kill yourself to maintain it either – some of the best blogs only have posts with comments about articles with a link or excerpt. Let other people do the work for you!
Again, it’s fine to express your personal life on a blog as long as it’s nothing too outrageous. Some people keep a professional blog and a personal blog to keep those two areas of life distinct.
Nicki reminds you, “Social media isn’t just for fun. You will be judged on how you manage your profiles or overall brand in this space, so make the time and put in the effort. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it doesn’t matter what you put out there.”
This doesn’t mean that your entire online presence needs to be managed for the purpose of nabbing your next job, but it is important to bear in mind that once it’s out there, the information belongs to everyone – including your next boss.