Friend or Foe? How Your Social Media Activity can Impact Your Job Search

Nearly every superhero movie has a pivotal moment in which the hero or heroine realizes super powers can be a force for good or an implement of evil. When you’re hunting for a job, social media use can have exactly the same kind of life-altering impact on your search. Smart social media use can build your personal brand in the eyes of potential employers, and imprudent social media activities can quickly sandbag your chances of landing most opportunities.

Employers are looking at and using the same social media you do. Where once the biggest voice and the broadest reach belonged to he who had the biggest purse (companies), now everyone can create content and disseminate it to hundreds, thousands, and millions of viewers in minutes. That means your social media activities can have the same heft as content generated by the big boys, and in some ways it can be even more impactful. But it also means you need to be hyperaware of what your social media activities say about you to potential employers, because many HR and hiring managers do look at candidates’ social media accounts.

Posting insightful, informative blogs about your industry on LinkedIn can tell a potential employer that you’re experienced and savvy in your field. Half-naked photos from your new brother-in-law’s bachelor party, however, can send a negative message. As you’re searching for a job, limit personal social media activities and do your best to “clean up” any possibly embarrassing content on your profiles. Invest some time in building out your professional social media persona with positive information.

Once you’ve landed a job, however, don’t forget that your new employer may still be paying attention to your social media use. Many companies now have written policies for how employees are expected to conduct themselves on social media when acting in a professional capacity. Companies are increasingly aware of the legal ramifications of such policies, and that an employee’s social media usage can directly impact their business.

While your employer may not have the right to dictate what you can do or say on your personal social media accounts, keep in mind that illegal or questionable online behavior may fall under a company’s ethics and professional standards policies. If you’re unsure of your company’s social media policy, and you’re an active user of social media, it’s probably a good idea to request a written copy of the policy and give it a thorough review. Keep in mind that your employer’s social media policy shouldn’t infringe on your privacy. If you feel it does, share your concerns with your company’s HR department.

When you use it to build your personal brand and network with others in your industry, social media can be a powerful force in driving your job search toward success. Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility; it’s your responsibility to ensure that your social media use reflects well on who you are professionally.

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