I've been reading so much lately about all the dangers of having an inappropriate presence on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, etc. I'm thinking of just taking down all of my profiles while I look for a job. Is there any reason I should keep social networking?
- Hesitant Profiler, Nashville, 27
Dear Hesitant Profiler,
No, you don't have to go MIA from social networking while looking for a job. It may actually support your job search to keep the profiles up as long as they are appropriate (we'll get to that in a moment). Many employers are being encouraged to set up social networking profiles with an aim to recruit savvy, tech dependent Gen Y'ers. Recruiters do surf internet sites like LinkedIn and Facebook and check out potential candidates so having an online profile that portrays you in a positive, yet realistic light may work to your advantage.
Think of your online presence as part of your resume. If there is anything up there that you would not want a boss or co-worker to see, take it down. It's fine to share photos and events from your personal life, but be discrete and "PG." Monitor what other people write on your walls, comment boards, and elect to keep some parts of your profile private.
Lindsey Pollak, career advice blogger and author of Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World, says:
"As long as your profile is appropriate -- no revealing photos, dirty language, 'red plastic cup' pictures next to a keg, and so on, job seekers should maintain their social networking profiles. The networking advantages are huge and online profiles offer a more detailed picture of a candidate than just a resume. If you're actively job hunting, be sure that your profile features lots of positive things about you -- examples of leadership, community activities, interests, hobbies, travels, etc. You can also send messages to your contacts asking them to assist you in your job search."
In addition to having a "PG" profile, be sure to have a complete profile. Professional networking sites like LinkedIn serve as virtual business cards so be detailed and thorough. An incomplete profile makes you appear lazy and does not showcase all your accomplishments and abilities. If you are going to be Google-able, invest the time in building your profiles and keeping them up to date.
Not having an online presence may actually work to your disadvantage. For instance, if the type of companies you are applying to have a strong, branded online presence they are going to investigate how you broad-band brand yourself. Consider what you would want your potential employer to discover when they Google your name (and if they are smart, they will).
Checking out potential and current employees via social networking sites is an extra layer to the hiring process that more and more employers are using. Vault.com"s Social Networking Web Site Survey reveals that 44% of employers surveyed looked up potential employees on social networking sites and that 82% of those employers would think twice about hiring candidates with something perceived as negative in their on-line profiles. Furthermore, 39% of employers have searched the on-line profiles of current employees.
Bottom line -- keep your profiles, but keep think of them as part of your resume (and edit them with the same degree of attention and fore-thought). And when you do find a job, don't take that as the green light to bring back those drunken pictures and explicit quotations. Social networking sites are great for networking and keeping contact with friends and colleagues, but use them wisely.
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