You probably don’t need me to tell you how hard it is to find a decent job right now. Times are tough for anyone looking for employment, but I’d say that the unemployment crunch has been particularly hard on recent college graduates trying to get their feet wet with an entry level position. It’s hard for a young person to prove their worth to potential employers when they have little experience to show it.
At a time when literally millions of qualified young men and women are looking for work, your chances of finding a job are only as good as you make them. In this writer’s opinion, one of the best ways to improve your chances with potential employers is by optimizing your presence online. The web is usually the first resource HR reps turn to when they receive a job application, so why not ensure that they like what they see when they look you up?
Let’s take a look at some ways you can leverage your online reputation to get hired.
The online shift from college student to young professional
Before you begin the search for a career-focused job, you’ve got to plan your transition from the type of online presence you maintained in college to the one that you’d want your employer to see. In other words, you want to shift your focus from Facebook friends to LinkedIn connections.
This shift should start with the erasure or containment of all the embarrassing content you’ve shared or been a part of online. If you advertised your college exploits on your Facebook profile for all to see—and who of us in our generation didn’t—it’s time that you did something about it. You should either amp up your privacy settings to the maximum, or delete those damning images/posts all together. Imagine if your potential employer Googled your name and one of the first things they came across was a photo of you doing something ridiculous at a college party you attended years ago.
Yeah, you don’t want that.
Cultivating a professional online presence
Once you’ve sectioned off the youthful digressions captured on your social networks, it’s time to focus on the professional networks where you’ll now be spending the bulk of your time. Services like LinkedIn are instrumental in connecting you with influential professionals who could help you get a leg up in an industry, even if it’s a field experiencing a hiring slump.
On services like Facebook, you tend to befriend people who you socialize with in real life, members of your immediate family, and friends of friends. This isn’t the way you make connections on professional networks. You have to take risks on professional networking services like LinkedIn, because you won’t get anywhere without putting yourself out there.
You’ll essentially be pitching your skills and asking industry questions to people much better connected than you are. Sending messages to professionals who you don’t know; putting out feelers to HR reps in fields that interest you; connecting with young people in entry level positions to ask for their advice. You have nothing to lose by contacting these people, you might ask well take the chance to seek their guidance and advice.
The 21st century resume
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the importance of the resume. Your resume is still the most important tool in your quest for employment, but that’s not to say that it couldn’t benefit from a 21st century upgrade. Your resume should be tied with your online presence. In addition to all your professional qualifications, you should list your email, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, and even your blog (if you have one). That way you can frame how your potential employers experience your online persona. They won’t have to Google your information, because you’ve already provided everything they want to see up front.
How else would you recommend using the web to optimize your employment opportunities?
Melissa Miller spent many years working odd jobs like street pantomime and burro grooming before finally admitting it was time to get her associate degree. Now she has sworn her life to helping others do the same by explaining the often tricky world of online education. Direct any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.