or many people, social media is simply a collection of online tools that enable communities to share information, communicate and very well socialised. In the broader sense, social media is described as a process whereby individuals and groups build a common understanding and meaning with contents, communities, and Web 2.0 technology. Social media provides people with new opportunities for career practitioners, but also creates a demand in terms of new competencies.
The most typical and limited purpose of using social media in career services is to deliver information. Social media is an effective mean for delivering and disseminating information quickly, allowing career practitioners to reach a large audience of people instantaneously. However, the use of social media as an information source for professional purposes – including school education – is quite concerning to some. Practitioners emphasise that active and safe participation on social media requires honed skills and an ability to seek, choose and evaluate complex online content. In career education, this means that stronger emphasis to guide young people on how to use the information and how to evaluate the reliability and validity of career information and the various sources of it in the light of lifelong career management skills.
If you’re a Generation X-er or older, you likely use social media to get an edge in the real world. You may also use social networks for personal reasons, but it’s always with the understanding that you within are a professional.
But newer generations of college graduates begin their social media experience as a very personal one, and the shift to using social media for career development may seem optional. But it can actually be quite beneficial to your future at the very best.
A few things students should consider when starting to use social media professionally are:
1. It’s Not the Same
Most teens and young adults use social media to connect directly with their friends and share personal experiences and casual conversations with their networks. Yet, interacting on social networks with an agenda of career growth is different than doing so for purely personal reasons.
Using social media for professional purposes doesn’t mean that you have to give up your social networking. By refining your language, highlighting content and information that’s more career-focused, and connecting and conversing with more people outside your immediate group of friends signifies that you’re interested in more than just the personal.
2. Power in Connections
Social networks offer in numerous ways to connect with a wide range of people with very little effort and to organize those connections — through lists, circles or groups — so that you can use them more effectively.
Building each network to create relationships that can be nurtured through interaction and conversation, and by cultivating and organizing the network you create, you’ll be able to more effectively act upon professional opportunities.
3. It Can Help You Find a Job
Beyond the ability to connect with people and groups from a professional standpoint, social media can actually help you find that job as nearly every social networking site posts loads of job opportunities.
It has the ability to connect you directly to the brands you would love to work for, as well as the people behind those brands. While you keep your eyes open for job postings, take some time to engage with these brands and people, and establish a relationship with them.
4. Learning Is Still Good for You
By interacting with professionals, industry media outlets and experts in the desired field of work you wish to work in, you’ll be able to deepen your own level of knowledge of that field and stay on top of trends and current issues. It’s an excellent supplement to your in-class work and good preparation for the continuing learning you’ll need to do when you graduate.
5. You Can’t Hide Behind the Curtain
The speed and virtual aspect of social networks can tempt people to act a little less than professional. For instance, sometimes harsh or more sarcastic interactions are acceptable on social media. And some people believe that because social media is generally a public forum, they are allowed to speak freely and openly.
Whatever the case be, disrespectful interactions with others (strangers or colleagues) is a huge no-no. If something isn’t acceptable to a person face-to-face, it probably means it isn’t appropriate for social media either. The same social norms apply whether online or offline. And the same level of respect and collegiality is expected on these channels.
6. It’s Not Just About You
Constant self-promotion is almost always looked down upon in social media. Keep most of your posts to a conversation, third-party content, general comments and questions, and keep the sales pitches at a low. David Armano (EVP of global innovation and integration) discusses the overuse of the #humblebrag hashtag. You get the point.
Instead, think about what kinds of content will give your audience the most value, especially when it also suggests that you’re open to educating yourself on a wide range of ideas.
7. Strut Your Stuff
Social networking is an absolutely fantastic way to showcase your knowledge on your field of interest. Using many of the above tactics shows that you’re paying attention to your target industry and demonstrating a certain level of critical analysis.
By tweeting relevant articles, or commenting on industry trends on your personal blog, you can show your level of interest and personal development outside of classwork and internships.
8. You Will Get the Once-over
Employers, future colleagues, industry leaders and many other professionals do look at your social media activities. That being said, it’s an absolutely great opportunity to showcase your interpersonal skills, in addition to your own level of knowledge and interest in that particular field. College students sometimes get a bad rap. But by being engaged with professionals, you can demonstrate your skill set and level of maturity.
9. Do it Now, it Will Pay Off Later
Much like searching for a job, if you start curating your social media presence after you graduate, you’re already way behind. By thinking about how to use social media professionally while still in school, you can position yourself as forward-thinking, forge stronger industry connections, and strengthen your on-paper credentials, making you a much more suitable and attractive candidate to your future employers.
To read: 5 ways to Overcome Procrastination