How your social networking activity can help your job search
We've all heard horror stories about how someone's social networking "presence" has disrupted their chances at landing a job. I would argue that, if used properly, your online identity can actually aid your cause when looking for a new career.
1.) Employers can - and will - look you up online. They'll search for your name on Google, then LinkedIn, then Facebook. If you have a Twitter feed, they'll read it. It's well within their rights as an employer to do so.
2.) When we engage in activity on social networks (and the Web in general) we can leave behind permanent digital footprints. In many cases this will be public record - forever.
Look, our social network profiles are new forms of self-expression, so if all your pictures on MySpace involve you running down the street naked after doing a keg stand, chances are an employer won't look too favorably upon that.
That doesn't mean we have to neuter our personalities online. When I was hiring last spring, I looked at the profiles and activity of applicants within social networks to get a better grasp of them as human beings. What do they do for fun, what are they involved in, what are they passionate about, what sorts of pop culture do they absorb, what are their musical tastes, et cetera. These extra tidbits can really round out a personality beyond just a resume. In fact, I almost immediately passed over the ones who had very little social networking activity - due to lack of personality, but mostly because it was highly relevant to the job opening (social media strategist).
You can hang on to those keg stand photos, but take advantage of the robust privacy features within MySpace and Facebook. Feel free to share these photos with your friends - but not the whole world when you're seeking employment.
To sum up, let your social network profiles be a showcase for your personality and passions, and this can be a tremendous asset during the interview process.