Much has been written about the “dangers” of Facebook for job seekers. I often feel like a broken record, reminding students to use privacy settings and be careful what they post. It is an important warning, as employers are increasingly using search engines and social networking sites to screen candidates, as Cassie Holman pointed out in her recent post.
Yet, Facebook doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom for your branding efforts. There are ways to use Facebook effectively. Let’s look at how Facebook can help instead of hurt.
1. Alumni connections
Have friends that graduated a year or two before you? As they enter the work world, they become a link from you and your career goals to the real world. Facebook is an easy way to stay in touch with people. Do not overlook your classmates – they are your future professional network.
Instead of simply leaving a wall post that says “what’s up?”, ask questions about their job search, new position or advice they have for you. Talk to them about your goals. Many recent alumni from the school where I work come back to campus to assist their employers with on-campus recruiting. It will be easier to approach an employer during on-campus events when you are greeted by a familiar face.
2. Employer and industry fan pages and groups
More and more employers are using Facebook to connect with college students. I know some students have mixed feelings about this – I still hear the “this is OUR space, not theirs” argument – but that ship has sailed. Facebook is for everyone, including your future boss and your grandmother.
Conducting industry and employer research is really important when trying to figure out which careers might be the best fit or when preparing for an interview. Employers who hire college graduates for entry-level positions are using Facebook in their efforts to reach candidates through students’ preferred mediums. Now you can learn more about a particular company, see who works there and ask questions while still playing Mafia Wars.
If industry info is what you are after, rather than a particular company, seek out groups centered around specific industries and post a question to the group or send a message to a group member to learn more (keep in mind that when you send a message to someone who is not a “friend”, they can see your profile page).
Facebook, with an estimated 350 million users, has a lot of people using the site – and many of those people work somewhere. Use Facebook to connect with professionals that can help you. In an experiment by One Day, One Job, job seekers developed Facebook ads targeted at specific employers and the people who work there to garner connections and helpful information.
3. Building a positive web presence
When searching your name online, Facebook, for many of us, usually appears pretty high in the results. Use this to your advantage by making sure your profile page is consistent with your brand. With Facebook’s privacy settings, you can make available to the general public some parts of your profile while keeping other more personal parts secure.
Consider making work and education information, extracurricular activities, some of your contact information (especially blog or LinkedIn profile websites) and/or the “About Me” section (with a nicely worded personal branding statement) available to the public. (This is a personal decision – for some, it might not safe to make public a place of employment or where you go to school.)
Go to “Account” then “Privacy Settings” to make adjustments. “Profile Information” is where you can decide which parts of your profile are viewable to the general public and “Contact Information” allows you to control which methods of contact you want people to be able to access (for example, maybe you want your website to be visible but not your cell number).
Be sure to also visit the “Search” section to adjust how your profile displays during searches and “Block List” if you there are personal safety measures you want to put into place.
Using Facebook to display positive, accurate information about your brand can be especially helpful for those with little web presence.
Connecting with alumni, employers and industry professionals and using Facebook to add to your online brand consistency are just a few ways to use Facebook for good. Has anyone used Facebook in other ways to build or add to their personal brand?
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Kelly received her master’s degree in Higher Education/Student Personnel Administration from New York University, and her bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison, where she majored in Political Science and Women’s Studies. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.