Social media often gets a bad reputation when it comes to employment, but if you use it well it’s a tool that can help you as you advance in your career. See how to build your personal and Young Professional brand!
Social media is becoming more and more ubiquitous. As of this year, around 66% of the UK population have active accounts on at least one platform. In the 16-24 age group, that figure rises to 94%.
Social media is an incredibly powerful tool which can have tremendous benefits if used well. Use it badly, however, it it can wreak havoc on your job search and career. The fact is that the majority of employers do check out candidates’ social media presence, so you’ll want to be aware of that fact and act accordingly.
Let’s dive in to how you can not only avoid harming your job prospects with your social media accounts, but actually enhance them.
What not to do
This isn’t a “what not to do” article, but I would be remiss if I didn’t share at least a few cautionary words before we jump into the more positive side of social media.
There are a few things that employers say they’re put off by on a candidate’s social media. Here are some to watch for in places where potential employers could see them:
- A few partying pictures where you’re out drinking or dancing with friends are probably not going to do you any harm, unless you’re looking to go into an extremely conservative industry. But photos of you black-out drunk will. And any mention of illegal substances is an absolute no-no.
- Getting into aggressive public arguments (as opposed to respectful debates) will cause concerns about your interpersonal skills and how easy you’d be to work with.
- Avoid bad language.
- Absolutely never slate a previous (or current!) job, boss, or company.
- I hope this goes without saying, but never attack individuals or groups, and do not engage in any behaviour that is racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted.
So now we’ve covered what not to do, what can you do to make social media work for you when you’re job-hunting?
Lock them down
The quickest and most efficient way to avoid future employers scrutinising your social media accounts is to simply secure your privacy settings very tightly. This strategy has its advantages, in that it doesn’t leave you guessing what might be a problem or worrying about that one photo from an ill-advised night out ten years ago resurfacing… but it also cuts you off from all the benefits of using social media well.
Something many people do is have separate work profiles and personal profiles, either using different names or just different levels of privacy settings.
Innocuous, everyday posts are fine and won’t do you any harm (my Instagram is pretty much just food and pictures of my cat.) But intentional and more in-depth posts that engage critically with issues will demonstrate that you’re an intelligent, thoughtful, and able to express your views well.
Comment on posts respectfully and constructively
When you comment on others’ posts and on discussions in groups, focus on being constructive and bringing something of value to the conversation. Whether you’re expressing an opinion, offering a tip, or simply saying thank you for whatever useful content the person posted, be courteous, respectful and kind.
Share industry-relevant content
Engaging with what’s going on in your industry is perhaps one of the best ways to impress potential employers with your social media presence. So follow relevant pages, join groups, comment on posts, share news and views, and – assuming your work isn’t confidential – talk about what you’ve been working on.
If you’re in the tech industry, for example, you might talk about new products you’ve tried or which tools you swear by. If you’re a teacher, you might share your favourite classroom resources. If you work in the charity sector, you might link to news articles related to the issue your charity focuses on. And so on.
Don’t neglect LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the least popular of the major social networking platforms amongst young people (only about 30% of 16-25 year olds have an account.) But if you don’t have a presence on there, you’re potentially missing out on some valuable opportunities. LinkedIn acts as a sort of online CV and is also a place where you can network with other people in your sector.
Active use of LinkedIn should be part of your job-hunting strategy. Connect with people you work with or have worked with in the past, join relevant groups, and enjoy all the useful content that is posted every day.
You can also set yourself as “open to opportunities” (your current boss won’t see this, don’t worry!) so that recruiters can reach out to you through LinkedIn if they are looking to fill a position that is a match for your skills.
Demonstrate your values
Some people worry that they have to be apolitical on social media. But – with rare exceptions working in a small number of sectors – this isn’t really true. In fact, engaging with current affairs and demonstrating your politics can be a fantastic way to show what your values are and how you live them.
Think before you post and do your due diligence before re-sharing anything, but be yourself and demonstrate what’s important for you. Many employers will view the willingness to speak up for what you believe in as a very attractive trait in a potential employee. This is especially true if you want to work in, for example, the charity sector.
Follow companies you’d like to work for, and engage with them
The vast majority of companies have a social media presence nowadays. So if you’ve applied for a job with a company, or just think you might like to work with them someday, follow them on social media. Comment on or “like” their posts, and tag them if you talk about their products or services.
While the person who runs the social media accounts is probably not going to be the hiring manager when you apply for a job, that hiring manager probably also follows those accounts. If they recognise your name and are impressed by your comments, they’ll remember you. And if they look up your social media presence later in the recruitment process, they’ll be impressed to see you engaging with the company.
(You can overdo this, though. Comment when you have something to say, not just to get your name into their feed!)
Build a brand
There are different schools of thought on the idea of a “personal brand,” but at its core a personal brand is just about demonstrating who you are as a person, what you do, and what’s important to you.
Think about what you want to be associated with, and act accordingly. If you want to become known for a particular kind of work, or as an expert in a particular subject, build your social media presence around that. Think about the kind of personality you want to convey, and assess whether or not a post contributes to that goal before you hit “submit.”
Have you found any particularly effective social strategies? We’d love to hear them!