Social Networking – Pitfalls To Avoid and Rules For Success

By Linda Van Valkenburgh
My  last post contained a discussion about using Twitter in a career campaign. I felt that it was so important to get this information out as soon as possible, after learning what I did while obtaining my Twitter certification.  However, I had really planned to take several postings to write about using social networking, in depth, as a tool for your job search. The following is the beginning discussion about the general rules to be considered when using social networking in the career arena.

A comprehensive career campaign includes the use of diverse methods to access the passive and active job markets. One of the most important methods is networking.  As in business, networking is the heart and soul of an effective search.  Social networking is a quick and efficient way to connect with people, enlarge and maintain your network. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the tools and techniques that can help you to avoid the pitfalls of using social networking sites and to employ specific practices in job search to hit your target.

The rules of using social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are similar and require paying serious attention to your online persona.  Starting with the pitfalls will give you food to think about while reading about the ways to proceed when using the social networking sites. When in search, your goal is to present your personal brand to the online community which includes employers, recruiters, and company employees among others. Part of your brand includes presenting a consistent, professional face.  This means the use of a professional photo for your picture and to insure the decorum of any other photos that you post.  The last thing you want employers to see is one of you sitting in front of an empty bottle of wine with a caption saying “I can’t believe I drank the whole thing!”  Also, refrain from posting pictures of you doing things at your current or former job showing that you used company equipment or did something in a comprising manner on or with company property.

Potential hiring decision makers will view the way in which you conduct your online communications. In some instances, this may be your first contact with them.  Your ability to effectively communicate in writing is being evaluated. Use of slang, abbreviations, online shorthand, and use of expletives do not put your communication abilities in the best light.  Tweeting about how much you “hate your job” or that you cannot believe that the “HR person you just interviewed with was such a jerk” are also communications you should pass on disseminating.  Tweets are viewed on the Google search engine.  This is not how you want to be viewed. Also, when you have finally landed your coveted job, Tweeting about the offer is not recommended.  There is a famous Tweet that has become known as the “Cisco Fatty Tweet”. As reported by MSNBC on March 23, 2009 in a posting called “Twitter Gets You Fired in 140 Characters Or Less,” there was a jobseeker that finally landed an offer from Cisco who Tweeted the following:

“Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”

Not too long after that a Cisco channel partner responded as follows:

“Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”

The rules of communication apply to all content.  If you are writing a blog, posting a comment or any other type of writing, you have to watch your content.

So, how do you use social networking sites to your advantage in building your online brand as well as increasing your network?  Start by thinking of the name that you use for your email address, username, Twitter handle and any other way that you want to be identified.  All descriptions should be professional.  Having “Hot and Sexy” as part of anything that an employer or professional colleague sees can lessen your opportunities for career advancement. Employers want to know that you know what is appropriate and that you are not going to embarrass them in any fashion.  Your desire for self-expression needs to be handled in a different forum.  In the world of employment, it is a dictatorship of appropriateness and decorum! Once you have your name identifications, set up your profiles on the various sites. The most popular ones for search are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.   I discussed Twitter in my last post.  Please refer back to it for the information. My next post will contain an in depth  discussion about how to use LinkedIn for career search.

Whatever mode you choose to employ in your search there are some other tips to keep in mind.  First, you can spend untold amounts of time on the computer in job search. You need to be selective and target those things that will be productive.  Become disciplined and do not fall into the temptation of wandering and getting off task.  Keep checking your online information for consistency so that there are no surprises. Make sure that your descriptions of places that you worked and timelines jive. If not, re-visit them and do some housekeeping to clean them up.  Most importantly, however, remember that it is people who are hiring.  Use social networking as a starting point but get out there in person and engage people face-to-face.  Set up coffee meetings, lunches, after work meetings, breakfast meetings etc. to interact with people and tell them your story, which is the story of what you can do to help solve problems. Ask what you can do to help the person you are with. Go home and make sure to follow up on whatever you promised.  And remember the fact that everyone including Big Brother is watching so put your best image forward. Once it is on the web, you have lost control of it for eternity.

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