This is “Managing Your Online Brand”, section 11.5 from the book Job Searching in Six Steps (v. 1.0).
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Setting up a profile or account in LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media sites is just the beginning. As you move through life, you pick up new skills, join new associations, and start and end different jobs. Your profile represents one snapshot in time, unless you remember to update it. One good way to remember to update your social media profiles is to make major updates as soon as they occur (e.g., you graduate, you start a new job, you change your e-mail or other contact info). Alternatively, set a reminder for every three to four months to update your social media profiles, and this can capture big and smaller changes, such as adding details about a new project, if not a new job.
In addition to updating the facts on your profile, you want to connect with people and interact so that you take advantage of the networking capacity of social media sites. Here, too, you can set reminders and limits for when and how frequently you will be on these sites. You might limit yourself to a half hour each day at four o’clock. Or you might decide that social media is a priority in your strategy and devote more time. If you decide to work with multiple sites and have a blog and website, then you may need several hours each week to get the full benefit of the networking and interactivity.
You can only have one profile on each site. If you have a company, you can have a company profile or page that is separate from your profile, but many job seekers don’t have that option. If you decide to use your profile for your job search (e.g., point contacts to your profile’s hyperlink in your e-mail signature), then any personal information you share online becomes part of your professional package. Professionally shared profiles have no personal and professional distinction, so you want to be careful not to put anything that will reflect negatively on you (e.g., negative comments about your current boss, sloppy grammar, and typos).
You can try to manage one profile to be professional, say on LinkedIn, which is broadly accepted as a professional networking site. You also can manage one profile to be personal, say on Facebook, which is broadly accepted as a social platform. To accomplish this, you need to be very disciplined about how the information on your personal profile is shared. You want restricted access, and you only should connect with people with whom you have a personal relationship. Once you connect with someone with whom you have any professional business, that person will incorporate what they see on your personal profile into your professional interaction, even if they don’t intend to (you can’t unsee what you’ve already seen!).
In addition, some employers use Facebook to research candidates, so even if you intend to use Facebook (or another site) only on a personal basis, information there might still be found. Again, you can change your privacy and security settings regarding who can view your profile on sites where you want to maintain privacy. You also can make it a practice not to connect on personal sites with anyone whom you know primarily in a professional context. You do your part to keep your profile private by using these two methods.
With blogging, you can also make some posts (or entire blogs) private. If you are using your blog to demonstrate your expertise, however, you want as much to be public as possible. Given the conversational tone of many blogs, it is easy to forget that your blog is still, in effect, a writing sample for your job search candidacy. Your content, voice, and presentation all signal your work quality.
If you have been active on social media and didn’t consider it a job search tool, you might have been overly cavalier or sloppy with information. A good first step before you put your job search intentions out there in the market is to do an Internet search of your name. See what comes up. Look at the public version of your social media profiles. Do you like what you see? Are you named in photos where you’d rather not appear? Clean up your profile now. Take your name off photos where you can, and ask friends to be prudent in mentioning your name on their profiles and pictures. You want to clean up as much as you can and put in controls going forward.
When you are continuing on the same career path, it is easy for your social media profile to match your future aspirations. For example, if you are a student majoring in communications looking for a PR assistant spot, your profile showing your communications courses fits perfectly with your target jobs. But what if you are a music major who decides to move into PR?
It gets more complicated as you add more years, experience, and skills to your life and career. If you spent five years as a professional musician and now want to pursue PR, your profile facts alone won’t project your intent.
In the first chapter, we talked briefly about job search and career change. Social media is particularly helpful to refine and change your brand over time. While you can’t change your major or the jobs you have held that might paint one type of picture, you can add information about new courses, new projects (even volunteer), and new skills that will add a new dimension to your profile. You can specifically target new groups and new people with whom to interact. You can blog about your new career target or comment on other people’s blogs that relate to the new target, thereby shifting the balance from your former profile to this newer blended profile that includes the new target.
It’s tricky if you are currently employed and this career transition is a secret. If you are still active in your first career, adding the new information dilutes the former, so this is tricky to balance as well. The trade-off between old and new information and how you project your brand overall will vary on a case-by-case basis, but you should consider the preceding issues as you decide what’s best for you.