Dear New Shrink,

I have heard from several people that social media can help individuals find new jobs. On the other hand I have also heard that some people have lost out on job offers as a result of personal things they have posted online. Can you help clarify?

Signed,

Puzzled

Dear Puzzled,

Both sides are correct. There are stories of individuals who have secured new positions as a result of social media. There are also plenty of accounts describing people who have lost out on great job opportunities because of what they posted or featured on their personal profiles or websites. Ultimately social media can be a great source of job leads and can show an employer you’re the best candidate for the job, if it is used appropriately and strategically.

The rise of the Internet and social media has made it easier for applicants to apply to open positions. It has also made it easier for employers to learn more about candidates before the first interview. Using social media effectively starts with managing your image properly. Use your privacy settings, but don’t rely on them too much. Keeping your personal information private is important, but beyond just resorting to settings simply think before you post. Put yourself in the mind of the recruiter. How would they interpret what you’re about to write or that picture you’re tagged in?

It is also important to find out what’s available for others to see. Do a simple Google search to see what’s attached to your name. You should also be mindful of who you friend or accept invitations from. It is not just a numbers game. Develop your own personal policy for your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and stick to it.

Sensitive information is not intended to be part of the hiring process for a reason. Keep sensitive information, including religious preferences, marital status, political beliefs, or other personal affiliations, off of your public profile. Use the rule of thumb that if the information is not appropriate in an interview or as part of the hiring process the information itself does not need to be posted publicly online.

Have purpose in what you do online. Use your social media tools as a way to showcase your skills and interests. Your tweets, posts, and updates should relate to what you’re truly passionate about. An employer’s top concern is hiring someone who is passionate about what they do — it’s what gets them through the rough days and tough clients. You can also show your interests by joining professional groups online. Joining the groups designed for your industry can be a great way to increase your visibility among colleagues in your field and show your interest in the professional community. Signing up for daily or weekly digest e-mails can help you stay on top of what others are talking about. But, don’t just be a quiet bystander. If you have something to say, feel free to add in your thoughts or experience. Providing insightful comments can be a great way to get noticed.

Use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook as a way to identify who is hiring and then do your own background research to make a tailored approach to those employers. The companies who are hiring a greater number of people in a shorter amount of time often resort to social media tools as a way to identify qualified applicants in a quick, inexpensive manner.

Social media can help you land your next gig and it can also help you keep it. Employers continue to monitor employee’s social media presence even after the hiring process is completed. Maintaining and promoting your online image should not just take place when you’re actively searching for a new position. Use your social media tool as a way to keep in touch with friends, former classmates and colleagues, and professional contacts. Keep in mind that others can see when you post. Save your personal updates and photo sharing for post-work hours. You serve as an extension of that company so make sure you are adding value in the office and online.

KATRINA DAVY is a Santa Monica based professional career counselor who holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters! Visit us online at www.newshrink.com.

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