In my everyday work as career counsellor for immigrants, I find that some clients have great professional backgrounds and high levels of education (some with masters and PhD’s) but lack Social Media skills: while many have email accounts, fewer have Facebook or Tweeter and only a small percentage has Linkedin professional profiles. Almost none has e-portfolios and the majority struggles to see how all these technologies can help when job searching.
In its early days, Internet use was passive: we were consumers of information. When Web 2.0 arrived, this approach changed: we are now becoming a part of it through Social Media tools such as email, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, e-portfolios, blogging, etc. We are now creators of information.
In Canada, 99% of the transactions and processes are computerized, so learning to use computers efficiently and showcasing it properly is essential for job seekers as well as entrepreneurs looking for self-employment.
Let’s see what the basic rules for appropriate use of Social Media are:
- Learn computer and Internet basics: Libraries have free computer and internet access and there are hundreds of websites that will help you to improve your skills. Books are also great. Look for a mentor or tutor or ask your employment or settlement counsellor for help.
- Have a plan: decide what you want to share and with whom.
- Start simple: until you find the confidence and understand how to use the tool, use one at a time.
- Be strategic: don’t go public until your profile has been proofread and reviewed by a mentor or a good friend.
- Be careful: don’t share your accounts with anybody, and keep your passwords safe.
- Protect your image:
- Don’t post pictures of you that you wouldn’t like others to see.
- Don’t engage in polemic topics or do so with a pseudonym, not your real name.
- When joining new websites or groups, read the FAQ’s and observe before participating.
- Always behave professionally and mind your grammar and spelling.
- Brand your online presence: design how you want to be seen and create a profile accordingly.
- Adjust the settings of accounts you want to keep private: for example, you may want to use Facebook only for family friends and LinkedIn only for job search and networking. Making this distinction allows you to share or follow things in one area, which you wouldn’t share in another.
- Be extra careful: once you have submitted an email, posted a comment or uploaded a picture, they can be forwarded, copied and printed. Always think twice before “clicking”.
How to use Social Media for Job Search, entrepreneurship or job promotions:
E-portfolios: e-portfolios are a collection of your best work samples and reflections. E-portfolios are much more than a resume: they showcase your career path through pictures, videos and samples of your work, quotes about you, interests, etc. E-portfolios may be free or fee-based and are recommended for professionals, entrepreneurs or occupations where you have something to show: from web-developers and designers, corporate trainers, small-business owners, artists and trades such as bakers, cooks, and gardeners will benefit from them.
LinkedIn: this is a tool designed for professional networking. It allows easily showcasing your education, work experience and skills, joining groups and applying for jobs online. It is similar to having an “online” resume alongside a networking opportunity for informational interviews and job-leads.
Facebook: Usually for family and friends, can be also used for following groups and posting, networking and showcasing. However, as most people still use it for private and fun purposes, be careful of who you allow to write in your wall and what you share.
Twitter: Use it to follow companies, trends and websites that relate to your professional interests. Be careful with what you tweet, who you follow and who you allow to follow you. Your line needs to reflect your philosophy, job target or status. If you plan to use it for personal connections, then keep it private.
Email: To make good use of it, keep a personal email (for family and friends) separated from a professional email account. Use the later for job-search and other professional endeavours only, add an email signature with your contact information and a line that summarizes your skills, or a link to your e-portfolio or Linkedin account.
Blogging: blogging is easy and fun, and it allows you to demonstrate your expertise in one or more areas. You can have a private or public blog, and make it more professional (for job search, promoting your services or products, etc.). Blogging services may be free or for a fee, but you have to be careful about image, branding and content.
Forums and groups: join online professional groups to exchange ideas and resources and find support. Groups can be very useful for finding where to study, job leads and learning more about your profession. You can also mentor others and show what you know; creating a good reputation that will follow you everywhere.
Finally, remember that no matter whether you are job-searching, trying to go solo as entrepreneur or looking forward to a promotion in your current job, employers and potential clients will look up your name in the Internet, and when they do so, you want them to find something good about you!