The day you officially don the cap and gown of graduation marks the start of a new journey into the “real world.” But, before you begin that job hunt, some proverbial “housekeeping” is in order to ensure that you put your best foot forward.
College professors and mentors teach resume preparation and interview acumen, but they often fail to mention one critical activity that can dictate your professional future: How to wipe your social media image clean.
According to Joshua Waldman of CareerEnlightenment.com, thirty-six percent of managers determine a potential employee’s “fit and personality” from his social media profiles, and almost 80 percent of hiring managers and recruiters look at applicants’ online information before they make contact.
That said, it’s imperative that you take a “fine tooth comb” approach to your online activities past and present–before the job hunt is underway.
Here are five things you must do before your job hunt is underway:
If negative information appears, use a tool like Vizibility, to prioritize what comes up in Google search results when a person types your name. (It also comes in handy if you unfortunately share a name with a “bad seed”).
If your self-search didn’t generate any relevant information, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Competition for jobs among recent college graduates is stiff and social media can “make you” just as it can “break you.” (More on that later).
Check Facebook and Twitter activity.
Technology has made finding, and wiping, unfavorable social media activity easy, thanks to tools like Reppler. It analyzes what various social media tools “say” about you, and takes you to directly to questionable posts so that you can remove incriminating information.
Reppler’s CEO Vlad Gorelik explains that most of the content posted on social media sites can be removed or hidden, but the longer it’s there, the more people are likely to see it. Even if you’ve been careful about your posts, you may be guilty by association. A Reppler analysis indicated that 80% of Facebook users with profanity on their walls had it thanks to posts by friends.
Establish a professional presence.
Until you secure the job you want, your real job is to sell yourself. Remember that Google search? If your name didn’t generate any information that tells an employer what you can offer them, it presents a key opportunity to build your image and it won’t cost a dime.
While you can and should start your own blog that addresses some facet of your professional interest, find other blogs and websites that relate to you desired career, too. Become part of the conversation, and share your thoughts intelligently on them.
Eventually, your comments and guest posts will show in your search results when your name is “Googled,” boosting your image to recruiters as someone who is passionate about a given industry.
Familiarize yourself with LinkedIn.
According to Jobvite data, 10.2 Million Americans credit LinkedIn as a source that led to their current job. When used correctly, it can connect you directly to hiring managers and help you to navigate the internal hierarchy of your dream company to uncover opportunities that aren’t advertised.
Make certain your resume, profile, and “ headline” is filled with keyword-rich terms that a recruiter might use to fill the position you seek.
Pave two roads.
With unemployment consistently hovering around 8 or 9 percent, your post-graduation job search may be a lengthy process. Before you ever start the job hunt, lay the foundation for two “paths”—both of which ultimately build your chances of securing a great job.
Consider the first path your “ideal plan.” It includes steps you take toward that dream job: Sending resumes, making contacts, building your knowledge and industry connections, and hopefully, interviewing and receiving job offers. At the same time, begin your “until then plan.”
If you’re scarce on internship experience, take on another and consider it in an investment in your long-term worth. If you’re confident you’ve got enough experience to justify an entry-level interview, turn to a temporary agency and take on a short-commitment until the full-time opportunities come.
While the temp job will very likely not be your dream career, it’s an important first step in building income as legitimate “young professional.” Money aside, there are other important payoffs: The opportunity for “professional practice,” bullet points and skills for your resume, and the invaluable opportunity to build professional relationships references. It will also tell a recruiter that you’re proactive, giving you a competitive edge in the entry-level job market.
You can pursue temporary opportunities through online venues like FlexJobs, Elance and oDesk, to minimize the odds of a conflict between temporary work and your “other” job of job searching. But, if you have your eye on a specific company in your city, working with a reputable and local temp that places candidates there (even if it’s not for the type of work you seek), can be a valuable way to get a foot in the door and make contacts.
The other benefit of taking on a temp job? Bargaining power. Nancy A. Shenker, author of Don’t Hook Up with the Dude in the Next Cube, says that once you’ve gained work experience and have a proven track record at a job, you may even be able to bargain a bit harder when that first salaried job offer you’re really excited about comes in.
Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.