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How to Prepare Your Social Media for the Job Search

In your post-college job search, your social media platforms matter more than you'd think. Here's how to clean them up for a professional presence online.

You just graduated college. You’ve invested four years in your education. And now you’re ready to get a job and make meaningful contributions to your field. Of course, getting a job right out of college isn’t quite that easy. With the typical college curriculum emphasizing humanities, math, and sciences, your degree program was designed to make you a well-rounded candidate—but it doesn’t tell you how to get hired to do what you love in an increasingly competitive and complicated job market.

While most college graduates have some knowledge of the art of the job search, there’s a lot more to it these days than a couple of interviews and firm handshakes. They’re only a piece of a larger puzzle in a world where employers can (and do) gain incredible insights about a candidate by simply perusing their LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or Twitter profiles, among others. So, while it’s still imperative to brush up on your interview skills, you best think about how to poise your social media presence for your next big step after college. These tips will help you get your social media profiles into tip-top job-snagging shape.

LinkedIn

Most of the time, when we think about using social media to land a job, we think about LinkedIn. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of this platform as a networking tool, and take care to create a profile that’s equally reflective of your experiences and education as it is your attention to detail. For starters, it’s standard practice on LinkedIn to use a professional-quality headshot. (Keep in mind professional-quality can be the product of an afternoon with an amateur photographer friend. You just don’t want the same cheeky selfie you use for Snapchat!) If you’re looking to land a job in finance, a more traditional business headshot might be the way to go, whereas if your job requires a creative or outgoing demeanor, you might consider highlighting those qualities in your photo. 

While a strong photo will make an impression, the content of your LinkedIn profile is crucial. On social media, and in life, your ability to communicate using language is a primary indicator of your intelligence. Use your summary as an opportunity to feature your writing. It can read like a standard cover letter, or you can have some fun with it, depending on your desired field. The next step is to fill your LinkedIn profile with content related to your industry. Just out of college, you may not have much relevant job experience, so be sure to include field and research projects completed during your degree program that relate to your desired career. It’s also helpful to join groups that are meaningful to your industry. Show that you’re engaging in relevant conversations and interested in networking and collaborating with like-minded individuals. Following companies and thought leaders that are known in your industry will convey that you’re invested, knowledgeable, and serious about the field. Finally, pay attention to all of the categories on your profile page. If you have received accolades for your education or work, be sure to include them, as well as any community service you may have done. Remember, you never know who will be looking.

Related: How to Establish a Professional Online Presence

Facebook

There are a couple of obvious etiquette rules on Facebook when you’re vying for a new gig. For example, while it’s unnecessary to use a professional headshot on this platform, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by featuring your graduation keg party in your profile photo. In fact, it might be beneficial to do some general profile scrubbing. Exercise judgment with respect to the position you’re trying to fill, and decide whether or not your public photos and comments are commensurate with an ideal candidate for that position. Delete or make private any photos or comments that might send up red flags. Controversial posts or highly negative comments may be aversive to potential employers.

Understand that job recruiters are looking at your personality fit as well as your qualifications. It might be helpful to have a respected friend or family member take a look at your Facebook profile and analyze a long scroll’s worth of photos and posts, then ask the questions: “If you didn’t know me, and only based on my Facebook profile, would you want to work in an office with me? What are the assumptions you’d make about my work ethic and maturity level? Do I sound kind? Would you want to hire me?” Finally, make sure to spell- and grammar-check your Facebook posts. While you may just be communicating with your friends and family on this platform, your attention to detail and careful consideration of your personal brand will speak volumes about your level of professionalism.

Related: Social Networking in the Summer Before College

Twitter

Twitter is an altogether different animal, with the ability to showcase your wit, interests, and personality in small quips. Compose a bio that addresses your interest in your field, and consider using a professional headshot-style photograph for this platform, as you did on LinkedIn. To take it a step further, follow and engage with influencers in your field and try to consistently increase your following on this site. It’s easy to do, simply by following and communicating with like-minded Twitter users on a consistent basis. Having a significant number of followers on Twitter will indicate to potential employers that you’re influential and have a grasp of social media as a business tool. Finally, post consistently about relevant news to your space, either by re-tweeting headlines or by giving your own take on important and timely issues to your industry.

Related: The Balancing Act of Social Media

In an increasingly connected culture, avoiding social media missteps can help you land a job. What’s more, understanding and leveraging the social media ecosystem to build an influential presence in your desired industry can help you to earn more money and quickly rise in ranks. In this day and age, you have a unique opportunity to carefully and strategically cultivate a first impression—be sure to use it!

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