Make Over Your Online Image to Help Your Job Search

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Make Social Networking Work for You

Your social networks don't have to be well-kept secrets, and sometimes they shouldn't be. For certain positions, being socially capable online is a boon. Paul Garaud, a former marketing and student services associate for Manhattan GMAT, found that the most successful candidates for a college marketing associate position tended to have a large number of Facebook friends.

"Their social networks appeared to have a direct impact on their ability to populate our on-campus events," Paul says in an e-mail, "But this isn't to say that it was the only, or even a primary, consideration."

Here are some ways to use social networking effectively to make yourself a more attractive job candidate:

Remove bad or embarrassing content. Let's say you've Googled yourself, and the first hit is a drunken LiveJournal post about how you got arrested in Amsterdam. Clearly you should delete this, or contact the site manager of the site and request that it be deleted. Unfortunately, if the site manager refuses to cooperate, there's not much you can do.

Push bad or embarrassing content down by uploading new content. The most effective way to get embarrassing stories of yourself off of the front page of Google search results is to start uploading new content. You can start a blog or a Twitter account, or get in the habit of updating your Facebook status constantly. Another good idea is to register a domain name in your professional name, so you'll appear higher in search results.

Take one for (your) team. If you remove bad content or push it down, people may still be able to find it using Google cache or the Wayback Machine. However, you can e-mail or even set up a Google account as a Webmaster to ask the search giant to remove sensitive data about yourself.

Of course, prospective employers would need to know what they're looking for in order to make a fruitful specific search through the past, so the odds that this might happen are fairly slim. But if something in your past could be a dealbreaker, it may be better to let employers know about it ahead of time. That way, you can explain the bad content and take responsibility for your actions--excellent qualities in an employee.

Brand yourself. If your name is rather common, consider adding a middle name or initial to differentiate yourself from the crowd. After all, social networking will work for you only if employers can find you.

Post or tweet content that's connected to the industry you're seeking work in. Here's where you start making yourself more attractive as a candidate. Start posting links to articles and stories about your industry--let's say it's consumer technology--to your various social networks.

You don't have to stop there, either. Career expert Tim Tyrell-Smith of Tim's Strategy blog suggests choosing another venue, such as Flickr, and posting relevant content there, too. For example, if you're interested in consumer technology, you could post a bunch of photos of the latest trade show or new product to your Flickr account. This shows the hiring manager you're passionate about the industry you want to work in, even if you're not currently getting paid for your efforts.

Engage with your target company. Most job seekers have one or two target companies they'd love to work for, says Tyrell-Smith. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the hiring manager come to you, go to them. "Like" them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and interact on their social networking pages. Not only will this demonstrate that you're interested in the topic, but it will also show that you'll be sociable within the company if you're hired.

If you're unemployed, sharing content is even more important. By sharing content and keeping yourself up-to-date on your industry, you can prove to hiring managers that you're interested in being a part of their company. Such efforts will also serve as concrete evidence that you haven't been sitting around playing video games all day long (just most of it).

Network. As Garaud says, sometimes having lots of friends is a good thing--especially if you're vying for a marketing or public-relations position. Networking online can help you get your foot in the door because people will feel that they already "know" you through a social network profile, says Tyrell-Smith.

Don't swear online. Just don't do it. Some people don't care, but many others find it distasteful and unprofessional.

Go Forth and Get Hired!

The good news is that your online presence can be a good thing overall. It shows that you're sociable, tech-savvy, and (hopefully) aware of what you release to the Web.

The bad news is that you can't let it all hang out once you find yourself employed. We've all heard of people who got in trouble at work thanks to thoughtless status updates.

It turns out that my mother is more Web-savvy than I gave her credit for. About once a week I receive an e-mail from her featuring some new photo I've uploaded or some story I've written, now that she has mastered the art of Google Alerts. The moral of that story: Even if the hiring manager looks like a 63-year-old lady from Parkersburg, West Virginia, that doesn't mean she won't be able to find your keg stand pictures.

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