Millions of people are broadcasting messages about themselves all around the internet without even realizing it. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and dozens of other sites are mining details about your personal life. What you buy, what you watch, where you shop, and sometimes the things you posted on Facebook at Twitter. At least a few companies are making a lot of money selling that information to potential employers.
Without getting into whether this is legal, a good idea, or if the information about you being conveyed without your knowledge is accurate, the fact it’s happening can’t be denied. While society as a whole sorts out the legalities and ethics of wide area data mining, it might be a good idea to take a look at your social media profiles and think about the message they might be sending to potential employers and take control of your public image. With a little work you can make your public image much more appealing to prospective employers.
While you can’t control what data mining companies might be collecting about you, you can control what potential employers see on your public profiles. Today we’re going to pretend we’re your personal PR pros and give you some ideas for brushing up your public image while you’re out looking for a job.
Start by combing through your Facebook pictures and remove the cell phone party pictures, car accidents, any pictures of you smoking, along with anything that’s illegal, dangerous or politically extreme. Leave the family pictures, pets, outdoor adventures, or photos of volunteer activities.
Next you’ll want to go through and clean up your comments and keep some of your more colorful friends from showing up on your in your public spaces. You don’t have to cut them off, but you do want to limit their ability to show up on your profile. It sometimes takes a bit of digging in the privacy settings to figure out the best configuration. Social media sites don’t make it easy to hide information.
You can’t undo everything you’ve posted on social media sites, but you can balance it out with a weight of more thoughtful information and posts related to your career field and volunteer activities. If you don’t have any volunteer activities, then today is a good day to start.
Volunteer activities always play well with potential employers, particularly if they’re related to community service, and they help cover gaps in employment. Volunteer on a local fire department, for instance. If you live in a rural area and are good with computers, you might be more of an asset than you realize, particularly in helping with grant applications. If you’re successful in helping a local fire department or other community organization get a grant or raise money, that’s an immediate gold star on your resume.
Any volunteer activities helping animals are almost always well received. Spend a few days a week at the local animal shelter, post lots of pictures. Salacious? Maybe, but do you want the job or not?
Other good volunteer opportunities would include Meals On Wheels, if you have a car and can afford the gas, or something like Habitat For Humanity if you can wield a hammer. Almost every state park needs volunteer helpers and there is a bonus if you get a uniform.
Other bonus pictures worth having are joining a public speaking group like Toastmasters and get pictures of yourself in front of a crowd.
You don’t need to turn your social media profiles into a personal commercial; you just want to minimize the negatives and promote the positives. Two factors will work in your favor: Consistency and time. Promote a consistent message, do it over a long time and before long the you a potential employer gets to know in an interview will be reflected in your social media presence and that’s the goal.