Hopefully by now you’ve prepared your tool set for the job researching and interviewing process? If not, go back and read a previous article. I’ll wait.
Until now we have focused on relatively simple areas to address, including your emotional health. Look for a guest post shortly about what happens to your network of friends after you are unemployed.
Now we have to turn our attention to one of the more difficult tasks. This one is particular will take some time and creativity.
It’s time you “professionalized” your social media presence.
By that I mean, review:
- Your Facebook Page
- Your LinkedIn Page
- Your Twitter Account
- Your Instagram Pages
- Your Snapchat Account
- Any other public social media (blog posts, Pinterest, MySpace, Tinder, etc.)
A Little Primer on Social Media and the Interwebs
Facebook has been in the news recently (April 2018 – https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/06/cambridge-analytica-kept-facebook-data-models-through-us-election) due to a scandal with Cambridge Analytics where they scraped Facebook data and used it to build a persona for millions unwitting Facebook users. This persona was then leveraged to generate specific political ads based on that user’s likes and dislikes to guide them to voting for a particular candidate. It was generally considered illegal not because of what was attempted, but because it was allegedly done without Facebook’s knowledge/consent. It’s okay though, Zuckerberg apologized (https://9to5mac.com/2018/04/10/zuckerberg-apology-to-congress/).
Mind you, big data engines and machine learning algorithms can now categorize you based on studying all of your online presence, including emails and text messages. You must know by now that your Alexa queries are used by Amazon to suggest products and services – and that this information is sold to others. So it’s important to know what sort of footprint you’re leaving out there.
Try this – search for your name online using Google. Too many hits? Enclose your name in quotes. Note how Google search often finds you very quickly, and has links to a host of information including company career names, media posts, Facebook pages, ReverbNation (if you’re in a band) and others. You are very easy to find, it’s hard to erase the Internet trail you’ve left out there, and it tells potential employers a lot about you. See if you can find out where you live, who lives there with you? Your property taxes? Easy. The cost of your home? Yep. Mugshots? Check.
See a photo of the front of your house? Yep, thanks Google! note that in itself says a lot you. Live in a dangerous neighborhood? Is your yard full of weeds and is there graffiti on your garage door? Search for your home on Google maps and use Street View to navigate to the front of your house.
And this information will be out there forever, or until aliens take it down with an EMF pulse (http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2014/01/14/emps-how-to-detect-blast-that-could-darken-world.html). EMF is unbelievable.
The Folly of Using Your Actual Name
While it might be tempting to come up with user names that reflect your real name — especially since it’s often easier to make up a unique user name by using parts of your actual name – that’s a very bad practice. This makes it easier for online searches and machine learning algorithms to compile a list of all your recent activity and associate it to you personally.
If possible, then, make up a user name that means something to you and your friends, but doesn’t generally link to your actual name.
Gmail is Your Friend (This Time)
Another way to find links between your accounts is to look at the contact email address (or phone number) on your profile. First, you should resist the urge to provide a phone number except for some very specific security-related functionality (to text you to unlock a bank account).
But more importantly, if your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org (see my previous post on not using AOL as a domain), and your name is actually Sammy Sosa, then you should not use this email in your profile information on social media. Instead, use Gmail to create a new account called something like “email@example.com” and use that in your profiles. Setup your email client (Outlook, Mac Mail, Gmail) to receive emails from that account. You can still use sammysosa@aol .com (or better yet, @gmail.com), but use it for professional correspondence and things that you aren’t ashamed of sharing with potential employers.
Google is Not Your Friend (Usually)
Keep in mind that by using Google Gmail, you’ve already agreed to allowing Google to scan all of your emails, advertise to you based on your email content, and potentially share this information with others. The same goes for searching. Everything you search for is remembered by Google and your ISP’s to be used to market and study you. The same goes for any events you put on Google Calendar. And for YouTube videos you search for, channels you subscribe to and any videos you watch. All of that is owned by Google, but licensed for your use. Thanks and Neat!
True Story => Recently I was in the market for a new car. I searched for Mazda CX-9 to read up on dependability and see reviews. After only a few of those searches I started getting ads for that Mazda, and emails from Mazda. Creepy. After only about 15 minutes of searches.
Twitter has made it easy to communicate with vast arrays of people, publicize your personal opinions, and follow organizations that may interest you. Twitter rage is a thing, where a Twitterer will tweet angry things at various politicians, actors, social media outlets, organizations, etc. Rarely do you get a response, but your Twitter friends who share the exact same feelings as you will Like the tweet.
Under the same guideline as “don’t use your real name”, you should not have a Twitter handle (or associated profile email address) that you use to tweet anything that a prospective employer should not see.
If you would like to stay on Twitter and rant, leverage a Twitter handle that cannot be linked back to you by name. Or, if you have a lot of followers due to your clever tweets and amazing Twitter polls, change the name of that account to something that is not readily linked to you. Then start a new Twitter handle that you can use for personal and professional tweets. Then link the professional account to your personal email and take the time to follow a number of industry icons. Do NOT Tweet anything using this personal account that would tip people on your personal political opinions, and don’t tag your “rant” account from your personal account.
“But I’ve Gotta Be Me!”
Sure, thanks for that. That’s what the Russian bots said.
Listen, you don’t know what the political leanings are of the people who will be reviewing your resume. TECHNICALLY, Human Resources and prospective interviewers are not allowed to look for any social media presence, but the reality is that it often happens.
Most mature employers and recruiters can set aside their personal opinions and interview you objectively. But some cannot. And when you are in search of a job, you need to be a clean slate. Or at least a professional slate. Heck, you can use your professional social media account to research a prospective employer and even Like or retweet stories the organization puts out there. Great way to show that you support what they are doing.
Another “same deal here”, but a little more difficult. Facebook does allow you to mark your account private and not allow search engines to find you. And you should immediately do that. However, the world is a small one (thanks Disney!) and while it’s full of joy, it’s also full of fears, but there’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware. It’s amazing how many people operate in similar social networks. A recruiter may be a friend of a friend who is a cousin of a family member of yours and stumble upon your information. And that could be good or bad, but you’d prefer it was neutral.
Here are some things you can do on Facebook –
- Create a private and a public persona. That is, create two FB accounts and use the private one for sharing opinions about politics or Selena Gomez. Come on, Selena. Charlie Puth is adorable!
- Lock down your account. FB allows you to control how posts are viewed, so do NOT allow your posts to show up publicly. Create groups of FB friends that you want to include in your most personal views, and another group for views that are relatively benign. Use the appropriate visibility when posting.
- Delete your Facebook account. A bit extreme, but Facebook popularity has been waning recently. Deactivate or delete your account. You can download all of your content in case you want to re-activate it at some point.
- Clean up your Facebook presence. Yep, look at the “likes” you have set up for movies, books, other companies, political affiliations — and drop the ones that could be polarizing. Looks through your recent posts and delete those that are highly political or extreme. DELETE any photos that are suggestive, including a certain lack of clothing or where you were drunk and riding that Skeedoo up onto the dock, while holding a beer.
- Do NOT list your Facebook account on your resume. See previous sentence. Read it again.
- Create a business/organization Facebook account. If you use your personal Facebook account for another venture such as a restaurant, professional service, a personally run company, a social group, etc. it’s just as easy to create a second account and move all of that content from your personal account to your organizational account. Then do not link the accounts, and be careful when you tag one account to the other. Facebook provides some nifty tools for organizational pages.
- Remove information that would lead people to know your age, your marital status, your employment, your sexual preferences, your religious affiliations, etc.
Mark the following bio items private or hidden:
- Relationship Status
- “Looking for a (man/woman/elf)”
- Job details, if not pertinent to your job search. If LinkedIn says you were employed until last month, and Facebook says you’re now waiting tables at a Wawa, then remove the Wawa. There’s nothing wrong with waiting tables at Wawa. But it may not be pertinent to your desire to be a Vice President of Technology.
- Education years – people can figure out how old you are if you graduated from high school in 1983 or if all your likes are from 1966-1969 (Star Trek TOS!).
- Bio quotes that may not be funny to everyone: “I killed Amelia Earhardt”. I mean, okay but why?
Remember that everything you do on Facebook, including Likes, Tagging, Comments, Locations are used by Facebook (and sold to others) to paint a picture of you. What do you want that picture to say about you and your employability?
Review all of your social media accounts and make sure your profile photos are professional. They don’t need to be a headshot in formal attire in front of a clearly fake backdrop, with mood lighting. But they should avoid anything that suggests you’re not professional. Also a blurry shot (or pixellated one) tells me that you don’t have many photos of yourself or that you’re not very technologically adept. If you don’t know how to crop your head out of a photo and/or reduce or enlarge a photo without creating blurriness, ask a more techno-savvy family member to assist.
Update your photos every few years. Using one from 15 years ago will surprise an employer when you show up as someone much older looking. That’s not to say employers should be avoiding hiring older applicants, only that it’s misleading and may suggest to your employer that you’re vain, disingenuous or haven’t paid much attention to your Internet accounts (or hair color) recently. Do the same if your look has changed recently.
Select a photo where you’re smiling naturally, not making a “duck face”, not trying to be seductive, not brandishing a weapon, not wearing a bikini, not with any part of your body duly exposed, etc. – I think you get the… picture.
And as you take informal photos in your personal life, keep an eye out for ones that have a nice image of your face, smiling and natural. Put a copy of those in a folder because a) we both know that we rarely take good photos anymore and b) it could be useful for a future profile pic. At some point, crop the rest of the photo out and use that for your headshot.
Note: if you’re an actor/actress, there’s a whole other aspect to headshots that are beyond the scope of these articles. That’s when you need professional services.
In general, look at your profile photo and objectively ask what it says about you. Or better yet, ask your mother what it says about you.
This is such an important one that I’m going to devote the next post to it (3.5). THIS is your main online tool in your job search and it likely needs cleaning up and refined. More on that later.
Sealing The Email Address Part 2
This is so important that I’m going to keep harping on it, like a seal. Like a Harp Seal.
For your resume or for any correspondence to potential employers, you must have a professional email address. Drop the funny names (buymymonkey, anyone?) or antiquated domains. Create a brand new and professional email address that reflects a polished and objective person. Use that for professional correspondence, your resume and in social media profiles for professional use.
That’s just a quick take on what you need to do to your social media presence before you start applying for jobs. It’s so critical that you appear professional, polished and objective. For me, it was surprising how much I was projecting about myself with my social media accounts all mixed and cross referential.
It took me a few weeks to clean everything up but in the end, it allowed me to take two personas: the guy you absolutely need employed at your organization and my informal social media presence. Let not one cross the other!
And work to keep it that way, even after you’re employed.