The growth of social media has changed how we shape our careers, and can present problems if you're not careful. If you think of social media as a method of connecting online with people far and wide that is archived for posterity, it should help you understand how that can enhance your career options and how negative information can work against you.
This doesn't mean that you can't be yourself. Just remember that the Internet is not your personal diary and sometimes your inner monologue might need a filter.
Remember the "social" in social media. People want to work with sociable people who are able to communicate clearly, seem likeable, have interesting things to say and who don't offend their sensibilities. If you are taking to these platforms to complain, let loose or showcase your cutting-edge lifestyle, be aware that the people reading your latest update or viewing your photos might think that you are negative, undisciplined or unable to fit-in with a business environment.
See from another perspective
Google yourself and then Bing it to see what the major search engines think of you already. If you have a common name add additional search terms such as your city, your employer, your school. If you have a less common name, you are much more visible so it is even more crucial that you keep your best face forward. Consider adding a Google Alert so you are updated when new information posts with your name on it. Of course, there is likely to be someone else out there with your same name. Your best bet in that instance is to create your own presence on high ranking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook that promotes your results up there with your same-named competition.
You might think that potential employers are happiest when they find that you are invisible on the web, but recent research says that may not be the case. A recent article at Forbes.com discussed suspicions that recruiters may have for those who choose not to be on Facebook. It is considered so much a part of modern life that those who abstain may seem to be anti-social.
Know your privacy settings
When you searched your name were you surpised to see a comment from a news site show up? As many sites are linking to people's Twitter or Facebook accounts for commenting, you need to be aware that those comments will show up in search engines. Before you hit submit, think if those words linked to your name and profile photo will enhance your online appearance.
Go through Facebook's privacy settings carefully and make public only that information that you want to be public. Twitter is by its very nature a public forum, but you can tweak your settings to not disclose information on your location. You also control what is listed on your public profile, so be sure to make sure you are putting your best face forward.
Now, harness the power of LinkedIn!
Your LinkedIn profile is your online resume. Even when you aren't actively seeking a new position, make sure that you take the time to take advantage of the tools available to keep you in the loop. Be sure to add new skills, accomplishments and education as you attain them. Connect with fellow schoolmates, co-workers, former employers, and colleagues who you do business with or meet at trade events. Your network of connections are those who know you best and are your best resource when the time comes to find a new job.
Be sure that you invest the time to create a profile that highlights not only your education and experience but also your skills whether developed in or out of the workplace. LinkedIn provides useful webinars to give advice on using their site for jobseekers.
Don't ignore Twitter as a resource
The art of using Twitter for job seeking is a little less straightforward than with LinkedIn. Taking a multifaceted approach is your best option. First, listen to interesting people. If you want to be a financial reporter, follow the best in the business. If you want to write code, find software experts who are on the platform. There are also lists of folks who tweet about job searching or maybe even online chats on breaking into a field such as finance. Follow companies that you admire. Use # searches for jobs or job titles to see recent posts and perhaps find new accounts to add to your news feed.
Be interesting and brand yourself. Often the most daunting thing about Twitter is the pressure of writing those first few tweets in the wilderness. Know that these first few tweets are likely to be seen by noone, but they help to show who you are. Engage with those who you follow, responding to their tweets or requests for information. Even if no one is following you you can keep up with industry trends as well as celebrity gossip. It is almost like having a customized news source filled with the voices that most interest you.
It all comes down to being social
When you are looking for a new opportunity, you want to be visible and social media offers you the chance to shape the image you want to present. You can connect with decision makers before a job is posted and develop relationships that keep you at the forefront of their awareness when there is an open spot.