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Guest Blog: Sue Keogh, How graduates can use their online profile to stand out from the crowd
In the past, when you applied for a job all the employer had to go on was the CV in front of them. You'd leave out all the bad bits and focus on your skills, experience and enthusiasm for the job in hand. They scanned for typos and evidence that you had the right qualities for the job, then either binned it or invited you in for interview. They’d even write and let you know either way – I know, sounds unbelievable doesn’t it?!
Nowadays it's a different story. Studies show that three-quarters of recruiters check out applicants on the internet when hiring. So those dodgy photos of on Facebook of you falling out of a nightclub with all those hilarious, expletive-filled comments below aren’t going to do you any favours.
And in today’s difficult job market how are you ever going to know the reason you never hear back? What if your online profile is damaging your career prospects? And how can you use it as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd (for the right reasons?)
The difference between private and public
What catches people out is that posting on social media is often done in private. Maybe you’re sat with your iPad on your lap while watching TV. Or tweeting from the toilet. However you do it, your words and pictures are being displayed in a public forum for anyone to look at, at any time.
So if the content you’re putting out there is less than professional this can be damaging to your career prospects.
You may have heard about the bus driver who lost his job after complaining about his passengers on Facebook, or the news reporter who was fired for making candid confessions on her blog. Bad behaviour on social media has even resulted in a jail term; these two were jailed for sending abusive tweets to a feminist campaigner and a politician.
Protecting your online profile
Let’s assume that potential employers are going to be checking you out online. How can you check if your profile is up to scratch and stop employers digging your digital dirt?
- Do a search on your name and see what you find. What results does it bring up?Tip! Google looks at your search history and personalises the results. Turn this off before running the search.
- Facebook privacy settingsYou need to lock these down! It’s a bit tricky because Facebook sneakily changes the rules every five minutes, so you need to stay alert to keep on top of this.
- Sort your biog outWhen people look you up on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, what does your profile look like? Is it in good English with a nice picture? No? Sort it out.
- Think before you tweetWe have a saying: pause before publish. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your Mum to read, let alone a potential employer. If you’re angry about something, pause and think through your response. And don’t drink and tweet. I know a woman who posted tearful updates on Twitter and LinkedIn on a Saturday night saying she was drunk and wandering around trying to find her car. Didn’t look good.
The opportunities of boosting your online profile
But let’s stop thinking about the risks and look at this from a more positive perspective. With a bit of imagination, the web and social media can be used to give you a head start in getting that dream job.
Start writing a blog. This is an excellent way of presenting something interesting to your employer to accompany your CV. It could be on any topic you choose, but if possible make it related to your chosen industry. Going into computer science? You don’t have be a Silicon Valley insider to offer insights – you can embed videos of the latest industry innovations and add your own thoughts below. Budding chef? A food blog will be a great way to show how inventive you are in the kitchen.
Platforms like WordPress and Blogger make it very easy to get started. Tumblr can be good if your career path is very visual, for example photography or fashion.
Before you start, spend some time jotting down ideas for posts. You need to make sure the blog has legs or you’ll run out of steam after two posts.
Need inspiration? See how these people used blogging as a route to a career:
- How I got six million viewers on YouTube - and turned it into a full-time job
- A Girl Called Jack signs book deal with Penguin –
- Blogging got me my dream job
- How my blog got me a full-time job
- How one blog post helped me get a job in social media
- How I turned my food blog into a career
Tidy up your profile pages. This is an easy win. As mentioned above, think about the following things:
- A personable and professional photo. You don’t have to be wearing a suit. But that string bikini isn’t a good look either.
- A clear, simple description of who you are which shows a bit of character too. For example on Twitter: English graduate and news junkie looking to pursue a career in journalism. Love #PMQs, #BBCQT and a meaty political scandal!
- The content you’re posting. Try to comment on topical events and industry developments, posting regularly and talking like a grown-up. If the biog is badly written, you keep arguing with strangers and the profile pic shows you gurning into a pint glass, you need to make a few swift changes.
Write your own social media strategy.
What topics are you going to tweet about? What’s off limits? As a rule of thumb, politics, sex and religion aren’t good topics – unless you’re adding something sensible to the debate.
Take a moment to think what your core topics are and what you’re going to avoid. This can help you to stay on topic and create an interesting feed worth following.
How are you using your online profile to boost your career chances?
Sue Keogh has created content and social media campaigns for household names including the BBC, ITV, Yahoo!, AOL, Toshiba, Magic FM and Gov.uk. She now runs Sookio, an Ely-based business specialising in web content and social media for small businesses and big brands. Join Sookio on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
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