How to Make Your Social Online Identity More Appealing to Potential Employers

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Do you have social media accounts? If the answer is no, it might be time to start thinking about creating them — especially if you’re looking for work. Around 92 percent of employers said they used or were planning to use social networks for recruiting, according to a 2012 study by Jobvite, a company that produces applicant tracking software.

But, when you are as time-strapped as you are, how do you manage your online identities through social media and create the impact that you want others to see? When it comes to social media and employers, people like your boss, colleagues, experts in your field and future employers will create an immediate first impression and perception of who you are as a person based on your posted content and, as most of us know, it is a lot harder to change a bad first impression than it is to maintain a good one.

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The first thing that you want to do is portray your social media content with the intention of managing the perception others will have of you. The best way to achieve this is to look at your current social media content through the eyes of a recruiter, your boss, or a professional expert. Each post itself might be innocuous, but when pieced together with all of our other posted content, you might see that you are coming across differently than we intend.

Do you appear to be difficult to work with because you argue with others online? Do you appear to be defeatist and negative because you are always complaining about something work-related? Understand that it is OK to air your grievances sometimes — the trick is to not do it all the time, giving others the perception that you are difficult to work with.

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So, what do Human Resources professionals and experts want to see? Never badmouth anything about work, ever. There is a time and a place for that and it is not on social media where all current and future employers can see. Recruiters and bosses like to see that you are well-rounded. Human Resources professionals want to see that you have hobbies or other interests that could enhance your work, such as being involved in a book club or other organization. Maybe you headed up the fundraiser for your daughter’s dance class. This shows Human Resources professionals (and your boss) that you are a self-starter and might have additional skills needed for a new project or promotion.

The other trick is to manage your time better and more efficiently. There is no need to be on 10 different social media sites, spreading yourself too thin. Pick two to three social media sites that you feel comfortable with and with which you think you can showcase yourself in the best light. Maybe you are a picture type of person who wants to show your love of cooking. Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for showing that side of you. Maybe you like the social connections of Facebook and feel that you can best show your hobbies, other interests and potential work-applicable skills through that medium.

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I recommend you use at least one professional social media site, such as LinkedIn. Make sure you connect with good-quality people who know you and have worked with you. Maybe your boss will be impressed that you are professionally connected with a glowing endorsement from an expert that they hold in high regard, because you met her at a networking event and have remained in contact.

Along with not trying to spread yourself too thin and trying to manage your image with too many social media sites, also set aside one hour a day to keep up with your social media. Instead of looking at your social media for few minutes here and a few minutes there (which, as we all know, takes up much more of your valuable time than just a few minutes) or some days not at all, you want to remain consistent. During your one hour of social media time, make sure to answer any professional emails or questions you receive. If you go 24 hours without responding to a question from a client, expert or colleague, that person will have moved on and you will have lost the chance to answer the question. Next, make sure that you have a plan for how you use your social media hour. Do you look at emails first? Do you start off looking to see what your other connections have been up to?

If you use your social media time smarter, you will have the time to make the perception others have of you (based on your social media) positive and beneficial.

Tyler Cohen Wood is a Cyber Branch Chief at the Department of Defense (DoD). She has 14+ years of experience with Cyber forensics, supporting DoD and law enforcement. In her upcoming book, Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators, and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life, she discusses privacy and how to protect yourself online.

All views are my own and do not in any way reflect those of my employing agency or the United States Government.

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