It's all too easy to put the words “social media” and “career” together and immediately think “disaster”. Well-publicised mishaps, not least former US congressman Anthony Weiner’s alleged salacious tweeting back in 2011, have led to the conception that Facebook, Tumblr and the like are nothing but a minefield for professionals. But this is a misconception.
A 2011 report by Nigel Wright Recruitment found that more than 50 per cent of UK employers use social media in the recruitment process, with over 31 per cent specifically mentioning LinkedIn and 18 per cent naming Facebook. The percentages are almost certainly higher now. Moreover, a survey of 300 hiring managers by online reputation management firm Reppler recently found that 39 per cent had hired at least one person because they got a positive impression of a candidate’s “organisational fit” through a social media search.
The boundaries between public and private are becoming ever fuzzier online. Going into privacy overdrive and locking down online profiles is an option, but a number of career experts argue that this could mean missing out on a huge opportunity.
A careers guide published by Columbia University argues that the strategic use of social media is “one of the most essential skills of the twenty-first century job seeker.” The first step? Your personal brand. It sounds contrived, but you may as well have some control over what potential employers see.
Like an ad agency, the Columbia guide recommends jotting down general thoughts on the image you’d like to convey. Avid follower of current affairs? Get on Twitter. Consummate business networker? LinkedIn’s the place for you. Many large companies have a presence on social networks (with forums, and Q&A sessions with recruiters), and the Columbia guide says that interacting with firms in this way can be a good way to get their attention, regardless of your experience level.
Dan Schawbel, a Forbes blogger and author of Promote Yourself, recommends setting up a personal website as the hub for all your social media profiles. If it’s Google optimised, this will be the first thing employers see when they search for you. “My prediction is that in the next ten years, resumes will be less common, and your online presence will become what your resume is today.” He cites research by OfficeTeam, showing that over a third of HR managers said it was likely that sites like LinkedIn and Facebook would replace traditional CVs.
But there’s solace yet for the web introverts among us. Companies like US online retailer Zappos have been investing heavily in “relationshipbased recruitment” recently, sparking a return to face-to-face networking. And Schawbel neglects to mention that the same OfficeTeam study found that 63 per cent said it was “not very likely” or “not at all likely” that an online presence would replace the CV – don’t expect a raft of Weiner-style social media blunders quite yet.
Keep tabs on your privacy settings
One of the great annoyances of social networking apps is that the access permissions can change without you realising, meaning the app could share documents, locations, photos and other information. It’s easy to imagine this resulting in an embarrassing situation with a future employer.
MyPermissions uses a unique interface to allow you to manage all these settings on one screen, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Dropbox.