The use of social media can make or break a near or recent graduate's personal brand, job search, or career advancement.
Just the mention of a job search can bring fears, worries, and stress to near and recent graduates.
This is even more so today than yesterday.
The resume and job interview are only a small part of what is needed in today's job market. Social media is now an expected addition.
If used professionally, social media can strengthen your desired personal brand in the eyes of potential employers and important career stakeholders. If used without filters and control, social media can discount your personal brand and harm your efforts for a job search and career advancement.
According to recent research by Career Builder, 70% of potential employers are screening your use of social media. And, 54% have not hired someone because of what they found.
Surprisingly, 50% of employers use social media to screen how their employees use social media, and one-third of those have found reasons to reprimand or fire an employee for inappropriate content.
No doubt, important others are watching you on the social web, now and after employment. Here is an introduction of how to best show and sell your personal brand using social media.
The Essentials of Social Media for Personal Branding
1. Begin with your career-focus
Social media requires a purpose.
Yes, you have experience in using social media for fun, friends, family, or hobbies.
Yet, your use of social media for private and personal versus public and professional should be considerably different.
This is why a career-focus is needed. A specified career-focus tells others of the potential value of connecting with you.
Your social profiles should clearly define this value to like-minded others and current or future employers so that they will want to connect, take notice of you and your qualifications, and engage with you.
Besides a career-focused profile, your social sharing activity should confirm your focus and show others what you are reading and learning to advance your career. By adding relevant comment to your social shares, you are showing others what you are thinking and your point of view. Your sharing activity keeps your personal brand top-of-mind and reminds your connections that you are there and confirms to current or future employers that you are growing and serious about growing in your career.
Still, with your use of social media for personal branding and job search, your social sharing activity should show your authentic professionalism. You should share the real you, but with filters. Show others your best professional self and always think about the digital first impression you are making for your professional career.
Potential employers and recruiters will also search to find more about you than what is found on your resume or job application. It is good to occasionally show some of your personality, special interests, hobbies, or extracurricular activities. They are more likely to Google your resume name in an attempt to determine if your personality and character are a good fit with their company or clients.
However, the privacy settings on your more personal use of social media should be locked down so that these important career stakeholders will not find what you don’t want them to find.
"The Google search results for your personal name are an extension of your resume.
You are accountable for both.”
2. Consistency is important
Besides presenting a career-focus with your profiles and social sharing, across the social web you should make it easy for potential employers and connections to find and recognize you.
This consistency requires the use of your resume name.
The name you use on your resume or job application is what potential employers and others will use to search the web to learn more about you. Your personal brand is diluted if they cannot find you because you are Billy Bob Brown in one place, William Brown in another, and W.B. Brown in yet another place.
For consistency in personal branding, use the variation of your name that yields the best search engine results that find you without confusion with another. Make sure that same variation of your name is used on all the search trigger points (resume, business card, email signature) and social profiles. And, make sure that the common variations of your name are not used on the social accounts where you do not want to be found.
Besides consistent use of your resume name, you also need consistent use of a profile photo. This important profile photo should be a professional headshot and not a selfie, not a hobby shot that barely shows your face, or not a group shot preventing others from quickly recognizing you.
As with your resume name, make sure this same headshot photo is not found on the private but public social profiles where you do not want to be found.
Advanced Tip: It is not easy to hide from Google. Your personal accounts can still be found in a search, even when your personal or resume name is nowhere on the account (perhaps you used an alias). A simple right click of your photo from one account can find that or a similar photo in another account. Or, if any photo has your resume name in the file name, then Google can find that, too.
3. Make friends and influence people
Your best use of social media for personal branding and job search is to expand your social connections across several important target segments.
One, connect on LinkedIn with the people you know. This may include current and former classmates, professors, workmates, internship mates, supervisors, and others. The social networking potential is greatest with this group and the people you know can provide assistance in your job search and future career as long as you connect with them and keep yourself top-of-mind with your social sharing.
Two, connect on LinkedIn with the people you meet. If like-minded in career-focus, these connections provide insider career opportunities. This is the primary reason to attend career-focused professional meetings and conferences (even while a student). Also, when you attend job fairs or have job interviews, you need to make these important connections so that your personalized request to connect and your continued social activity will again keep you top-of-mind.
Three, connect on Twitter and other social networks with the people you want to learn from. In the history of education, there is no better resource than social media to build your personal learning network (PLN). Never mind that you may not have previously met or know each other personally. The purpose here is to learn from the brightest in your career-focus and targeted industries.
For example, if you want to get a job or develop a career in digital marketing in Denver, you can now follow the key people in all of the digital agencies in Denver and the Front Range. Then, you can learn from what they are reading, social sharing, and thinking. This is a great way to supplement your company research for a job interview for this people research will give you an insider preparation of what the people in your chosen company are learning and thinking.
4. Show and sell yourself
In the previous suggestions for using social media, I addressed the importance of having a career-focus that is prominent in your social profiles and social sharing activity.
More career-focus confirmation and proof of your qualifications are needed beyond what is found in your resume. For this reason, LinkedIn is the most essential social media for your personal branding and job search. Your LinkedIn profile should be optimized for All-Star status and needs your regular attention for updating, making new connections, value-added social sharing activity, and engagement with your connections.
In the LinkedIn Headline, you can clearly state your student/work status, career-focus, and related interests. In the LinkedIn Summary, you can explain or tell your personal brand story (or why you have chosen and/or passionate about your career-focus).
In the rest of the LinkedIn profile you can show and sell more career-focus confirming and qualifying details than what is found in your resume or job application.
This may include: (1) courses taken for your career preparation, (2) describe projects with a linked portfolio showing what you can do (completed in school or as an intern), (3) career-related memberships to show that you are networking and learning, (4) more details in the experience and volunteer sections to explain your tasks, accomplishments, what was learned, and skills developed, and (5) third-party skills endorsements and references.
Resumes are boring, one-sided, and fail at showing potential employers and career stakeholders the complete picture of your personal brand, your work-ready qualifications, and the real professional you.
Your professional use of social media can complement the traditional methods of job search and build a memorable and recognizable personal brand to advance you through your career.
As a near or recent grad, what are your greatest challenges with your job search or personal branding?
This article originally appeared on Digital Self Marketing Advantage and is republished with the author's permission.
Meet the Author: Denny McCorkle
Department Chair and Professor of Marketing
Monfort College of Business
Learn the why-to and how-to of using social media marketing for personal branding and job search (PB&J) by following @DennyMcCorkle on Twitter or subscribing to his blog posts at Digital Self Marketing Advantage.