With the summer season beginning soon (and summer jobs a goal for many college and high school students), it’s important to leverage every tool at your disposal to land an opportunity. Facebook gets a lot of bad press for causing people to lose their jobs. And it’s true: 70 percent of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals surveyed say they have rejected candidates based on information they found online. However, used professionally, Facebook can help more than hurt job seekers of any age.
In my book about social networking for job seekers, I wrote an entire chapter of tips about using Facebook to your advantage in a search for a summer job (or any job). Some highlights:
Create and manage a Facebook profile you would not mind a prospective employer seeing. While privacy settings are important and useful, it is impossible to fully secure an online profile. Usually, when people get into trouble posting inappropriate information on Facebook, they doubt anyone important will see it and don’t expect ramifications. For every bad result, someone over-shared or privacy was not set as tight as the user thought.
A recent study from Columbia University discovered almost 94 percent of respondents who use Facebook accidentally revealed information they intended to remain private. This research shows how important it is to clean up your profile. Do an audit of your profile:
• Eliminate unprofessional photos (untag yourself in any photo if it could be misinterpreted negatively), anything depicting or condoning anything inappropriate or illegal.
• Unfriend any contacts who may embarrass you or who don’t exercise good judgment. Tell your friends you need to keep Facebook professional, that employers will judge you based on the company you keep. Since any picture someone tags you in will be posted prominently on your profile, monitor them closely. If you find yourself in potentially embarrassing situations regularly, be even more vigilant about monitoring your digital footprint.
• Negative comments you or others have on your wall or profile—anything derogatory, offensive, racist, sexist, or homophobic—anything that calls into question how you may represent someone as an employee—should be eliminated.
• Disaffiliate from groups such as, “I hate Mondays” or “Working is for Suckers.”
Once your profile is pristine, take the following steps to make it easier for people to find you and to use Facebook to fuel your job hunt:
Open your profile to everyone for key parts. Use the “just friends” privacy setting for everything except for:
• About Me: Write a bio to emphasize your skills and any important accomplishments. This includes academic achievements, volunteer work, etc.
• Education and Work: List whatever information relevant to your goals. For example, if you’re seeking a childcare position, include any Red Cross CPR training or certificates in this section.
• Contact Info: Include an email address you check frequently. Opening these sections to “everyone” helps people find information they would need to figure out whether you might be a good addition to their professional teams. It’s also necessary to take advantage of certain Facebook applications.
Investigate Facebook applications. BranchOut, Jibe.com, SimplyHired.com’s Facebook tool, and In The Door connect you with potential opportunities. These tools tell you who in your Facebook network is connected to places where you’d like to work. Find, visit, and “like” Facebook fan pages for any company that interests you. Even if the organization does not have a “Careers” page, spend time interacting via Facebook. Don’t just ask about internships or summer jobs. Do a Google search about the company, read the latest news, and ask something or comment on the page. For example, if the organization has a new product, you may want to comment on it, or if the CEO recently made headlines (for something positive), you can congratulate him or her and ask how it may impact new initiatives. Showing you can function and contribute in an online community is one way to demonstrate you have what it takes to get a job done.
Use Facebook updates to show what you know. Even if you don’t have a lot of work experience, don’t let that stop you from demonstrating what you know via social media outlets. It’s easy to keep up-to-date about most fields and companies. Follow them on Facebook and LinkedIn, set Google alerts for organizations of interest, and comment about what you learn in your status updates.
For example, if you want to work in retail, follow your favorite stores and write about how excited you are a particular celebrity is representing them, or how great it is a particular line of clothing will be available. This strategy works for people seeking full-time jobs, but can also help distinguish a high school or college student who wants a summer opportunity. Most importantly, commenting on the news in your target industry helps alert your friends and contacts about your interests without you needing to constantly post “I’m looking for a job” notices. Every once in a while, add an update asking if anyone knows anyone at a specific company, but networking works better when you don’t look needy.
Used well, Facebook is an amazing tool for any job seeker. Don’t forget to put it to work to help you land your dream summer job.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.