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Saturday, March 21, 2015

It’s Time for a Social Media Spring Cleaning!

It's spring! If you are job seeking, you know that employers will be hiring en masse during these next few weeks and into the summer. In our last article, we just scratched the surface on the matter of how important it is to be cognizant of  your social media presence when job searching. Spring cleaning should not only be about tossing things out that no longer serve a purpose, but also about reinventing one’s self. We are going to share some tips on how to put your best foot forward regarding social media.

There is a popular misconception that it’s better to play it safe by having no social media presence at all. This is a similar mindset to how some view the credit: that it’s better to have none than bad credit. However, like establishing credit, if you have no presence on social media, that itself may raise some questions, as the majority of employers admit to doing searches for candidates on social networks.

It is also true that most adults of working age use at least one social networking site. In fact, the Pew Research Center found that among adults over the age of 18, 74% use social media in some form, the biggest users being Millennials  aged 18-29 (89%) and those 30-49 (82%.) 

Your Photos

Many social media users utilize these networks to stay in touch with friends and family. One major part of that is sharing photos of children, life events, and parties. Nobody is going to find fault in your posting pictures of your wedding, your child’s birthday, or a class reunion. What is going to raise red flags for an employer are racy shots of your Bachelor/ette Party, multiple scenes taken at a nightclub or bar, or on Spring Break. Think that only your friends can see them? Think again. 

Despite privacy settings, it has been documented that sites like Facebook have sold user information in the past. Personal data mining sites, such as Spokeo, have made it easier to obtain information about individuals that they may have thought were private, like photos, connections, usernames, and e-mail addresses.  Contrary to the sense of security you may feel in sharing, anything you post on the internet is essentially public. The best rule of thumb is to assume whatever you post can be discovered. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss or colleagues to see.

Google Yourself

Just like actual cleaning, this is something that everyone should do regularly. Put your name in the search bar, ideally in quotations, and see what comes up. Try it again without quotations and variants (i.e., if your name is Robert, try Bob, Rob, and Bobby, as well.) Some of what you find is going to be public records generated from government agencies, such as the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle), your local jury database, or even voter registries. If it’s coming from an official source, there is probably not a lot you can do about that, though you can remove your info from certain aggregator sites. Keep in mind that like your credit score, the Google search results you find are not updated daily. It can take up to a month for Google to index a new piece of data about you. 

Be Accountable

Are there five different Facebook accounts connected to your name? Or an old MySpace account from high school that you haven’t used in ten years? Get rid of them. Google indexes all of those profiles, which will be what comes up when they do a Google search. Close or deactivate any account that you no longer use for that matter. These are all part of your social media footprint and it’s best to remove any clutter. Who you were sophomore year of high school may not be a reflection of who you are today. It is to your advantage to control what information about you is available. 

Plant the Seed

Above I’d mentioned that it may appear a bit odd if an employer searched for you and nothing much comes up. Maybe you have a common name and thousands of hits come up when that name is searched and none of them are you. This is an opportunity in disguise. Instead of hoping that you can’t be found, perhaps you should do just the opposite.
Why would you want to do this, you ask? You are a brand. Whatever skills and talents you possess are part of your personal brand. We have staff whose talents lie in such diverse fields as education, film, and photography, and have effectively created a social media presence to highlight that. 

If you are a photographer and are going in that direction career wise, then it makes sense for you to open up an Instagram account and photo gallery, such as Flickr, or Picasa. If you are a great writer, you can showcase that by opening a blog of your work and posting links to it on Facebook and Twitter. For any professional skillset, if you are serious in your job search, there is no reason why you should not be on LinkedIn, which you can not only use to connect with colleagues and former supervisors, but also share your work on (blogs, photography, volunteer projects, etc.)

Controlling your social media presence—your personal brand- is a must.

  • Delete unflattering photos of yourself and ask that others do too.
  • Get rid of accounts you no longer use.
  • Do a Google search of your name, including any usernames, alias, and e-mail addresses you’ve used.
  • Use social media networks to showcase your talent and get employers to notice you in a positive way.


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