The following post is part of a two-week-long series on Graduating From College During a Recession, presented by the members of the College Money Network. You can get all of the posts in this series and more by subscribing to the College Money Network RSS feed.
As an internet savvy job-hunter, you’ve probably already found several articles that tell you to clean up your social-networking act before applying for jobs. It’s true, and it even bears repeating: don’t keep anything on your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. etc. that you wouldn’t want an employer to read, even if you think it’s protected or marked as “private.” Employers can sometimes get around that. Maybe they know one of your friends, and they’ll ask that friend to log in and show them your Facebook profile as it really looks.
You never know, which is why it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’ve always approached the internet with a “Never post anything I don’t want my mother to see!” philosophy — although I’ve done that because my mom is extremely internet-savvy. But I suggest you adopt that policy, as well, less something like this happen in your next job interview:
Don’t freak out too much, though. Although it’s possible for a potential employer to see things you’ve marked as “private,” it’s unlikely. So your first step should be to completely remove the worst material (anything illegal, smutty, or just plain awful), and then mark the questionable stuff as private. This should leave you fairly protected.
But is just being protected enough?
Using social networking tools to get the job
You’d be surprised at the online presence of some companies. Even in my search for theater internships, I’ve found places that run blogs, have Twitter accounts, Facebook fan pages… you name it. If the company you’re looking to work for is already on some of these networks, you can’t just hide from them. You have to make their online presence a part of your application.
Showing interest in a company’s online presence is a sign that you’re truly interested in the job. Employers get stacks of rÃ©sumÃ©s where people didn’t even bother to mold the resume or cover letter to fit the job. People who show a genuine interest and enthusiasm for the job will rise to the top of the rÃ©sumÃ© pile.
But this is a careful line you must walk. For example, if your Twitter account is primarily used for MTV reality show gossip, you probably don’t want to use it to follow a potential employer. For services like Twitter, where more than one account (for different purposes/entities) is acceptable, it would be wise to start an account to be used for public and professional purposes.
Facebook, on the other hand, is an example of a service where you’re really only supposed to have one account. This is where you should really just clean up your profile as much as possible before following a potential employer via their “Fan Page.”
Should you “friend” a hiring manager or potential boss?
That’s really your call. My general rule would be no, unless you’ve met them in some capacity outside of the application process. The idea here is to look interested, not like a stalker. A quick, friendly message on Linked In could be a good idea… showing up at the hiring manager’s house with roses is not. Where the line between those two exists depends on your particular situation. Tread with care when trying to stand out.
In the end, you never know how much these tools will help you. Here’s one final example: a few years ago, I wrote about Chegg’s new textbook rental service on this blog. I continued to write about it, because I found it a useful tool for saving money on textbooks. Eventually, I was contacted by Chegg, because they wanted to see if I was interested in writing their blog for them. Moral of the story? Don’t just clean up your online act — use it to expand yourself into the fields that truly interest you, and opportunities will present themselves.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this post in the Graduating From College During a Recession series. You can check out all of the posts so far, in case you’ve missed anything. The next post will be up on Thursday at Living Almost Large!