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Students secure jobs with social media

Michaela Paukner, Editor-in-Chief
February 6, 2013
Filed under Life

In an age of instantaneous updates, viral videos and infinite information available with a few strokes of a keyboard, it’s safe to say online content is part of the average American’s daily routine.

According to a Pew Internet poll, 92 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 use some sort of social media. The various updates may seem like a harmless way to keep in touch with family and friends, but it could impact students’ chances at post-graduation jobs.

Linda Peacock-Landrum, director of career services, said surveys show 70 percent of employers rejected a candidate due to something they saw online. Peacock-Landrum said bad-mouthing a current place of work on social media, inappropriate language and posts with too much information are among the top reasons employers won’t hire a potential candidate.

Karla Larson, senior lecturer of humanistic studies, requires students in her writing classes to research employers’ use of social media and then evaluate their own online presence. Larson said students took the assignment seriously and began monitoring their online presence by limiting tagged photos, number of friends and tweeted and posted information.

With that said, social media aren’t entirely harmful to job-hunting graduates. Peacock-Landrum said 89 percent of companies are expected to recruit with social media networks this year and 85 percent say a positive online presence influences hiring decisions.

In fact, LinkedIn combines the best of both. The site is a social networking platform for professionals. Anyone can make a free account on the site and join groups to make connections with companies and other professionals in his or her career field.

“LinkedIn can’t hurt — it can just help,” Peacock-Landrum said. “If you do it effectively, there is some benefit.”

Peacock-Landrum said students can use LinkedIn to connect with UW-Green Bay alumni as well as see jobs posted exclusively to the site.

Larson said many of her students realized the importance of a positive online presence and said they were going to join professional groups like LinkedIn.

A number of other social media sites are helpful in the job hunt. Students can post artwork or photos of artwork on Behance and Pinterest. Blogs on platforms such as WordPress or Tumblr can be used to highlight writing skills. Twitjobsearch.com pulls tweets about jobs from Twitter and allows users to search with keywords or browse by career field.

So how can students maximize social media for both personal and professional use? Peacock-Landrum said it’s best to separate business from pleasure and then use caution on personal social media.

“Attorney C.L. Lindsay spoke on campus a few years ago about social media,” Peacock-Landrum said. “He said, ‘if you don’t want it on a billboard, don’t put it on social media.’ Put a private parameter on posts.”

She advises students search themselves online to see what’s out there and available for anyone to see.  A U.S. Microsoft survey of hiring managers and job recruiters found 79 percent of recruiters will look at an applicant’s online presence before making a decision.

“If students are curious about what people can see on Facebook, they should have someone with and without a Facebook account search them,” Peacock-Landrum said. “It may turn up different results.”

Peacock-Landrum recommends making everything private on personal social media. Facebook offers an audience selector tool on posts so the person can decide who can see what he or she is posting, so users can hide posts from certain friends. The tool also allows users to change who can see previous posts.

The most important things to monitor are quality of pictures, use of profane, angry or derogatory words, amount of personal information in posts and time of posts, Peacock-Landrum said. Employers won’t be impressed if they see people are posting while they’re supposed to be working. Students should also be cautious of tagged pictures. Even if a student removes a tag in a photo, the photo may still be out there and available for employers to see.

For job-focused sites such as LinkedIn, Peacock-Landrum said students should keep true to the content — meaning use such sites for job searching and networking rather than just-for-fun groups. She also recommends adding a professional picture to your account because employers are more likely to connect with those accounts.

In addition, students should never feel pressured to show employers their personal social media accounts. Peacock-Landrum said many companies have corporate policies not to look at social media when considering candidates, and it’s even illegal for employers to ask for personal social media login information in some states.

“Social media can be an advantage to you,” Peacock-Landrum said. “I have seen it used as a whole new approach to a job search.”

For more information on social media networking, the UWGB alumni LinkedIn group or online job searching in general, visit the UWGB Career Services page at uwgb.edu/careers.

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