In order for students’ social media presence to help them after college, it is important to consciously develop and manage a professional online persona, said Niccolle Spjut.
Spjut is a sociology major who is interested in studying the concept of an online persona. She will lead a discussion about online presence in a Sociology Club meeting today, focusing on how important it is to cultivate what is viewed online.
“One of the most important things is to develop an idea of how you want to be seen online,” she said. “Don’t leave it up to chance.”
Spjut suggested that students manage their online presence proactively by removing any past information that they might not want others to see and only posting information they are comfortable with everybody seeing.
“There is a whole generation of people who have married their lives with Facebook, and they forget that it is only a tool,” Spjut said.
Sharlene Nelson from the Weber State University Career Center said she urges students to be extremely careful about what they post online, because potential employers are able to access it easily.
“Anything you put on the Internet is going to be seen by someone,” Nelson said.
Tricia Cook, who worked at the Career Center during the time Nelson had applied for a job there, agreed. She said she remembers that some of the staff looked at Nelson’s blog posts and other social media information, even though Nelson herself had not provided it during the hiring process. Cook said Nelson’s professional social media presence was helpful to her in this case.
Devin Allen, who graduated from WSU in 2008 and was recently in the Career Center for guidance, said his online presence might be what is hindering his job search.
“People only see my acting background when they look online for me,” he said. “I’m using social media right now to try to re-brand, but it’s hard.”
Nelson and Cook have taught several workshops about building a professional social media presence in Career Cafe events. One tool they recommend to assist graduates in their job search is LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is different from other social media websites in that it is intended to be a purely professional network. When users create a LinkedIn profile, they create connections between people they have worked with in the past. Users can share professional background and recommend individuals they have worked with.
“A good way to use LinkedIn is to go in and vouch for people you’ve worked with,” Cook said. “Usually they will go in and recommend you as well. When employers want to hire you, they can see people backing up your resume, and that is helpful.”
Graduates shouldn’t create a LinkedIn profile and assume that alone will get them a job, Nelson said. She recommends it as a tool to help in the job search, but said it takes a lot more than a professional profile to get hired in this economy.
“LinkedIn is not a magic pill that will get you a job,” Nelson said. “It is one of the things you do, but not the only thing. You have to put yourself out there and really try to get out in person, and just be willing to do more.”
Nelson warned that, just as LinkedIn can help one’s professional prospects, it can also hurt it if one were to use it improperly or post inappropriate information.
Cook said it doesn’t end there. She said employers are much more willing to search through Facebook profiles and Google names of potential employees.
“There are no boundaries to how far an employer will go to check out a candidate,” she said.
For people who have yet to establish themselves online, Spjut recommends an individual look at professionals in one’s field of interest. She said one can take a lesson in how to behave online by seeing how others in those positions have done so.
“It’s simple,” Spjut said. “Be intentional and don’t be stupid.”