How NOT to Let Social Media Ruin Your Career

“Social media? What a load of cr*p!” is what Catherine Tate’s ‘Gran’ character might well say. I agree with her, even though my working life largely depends on it. Okay, it’s a free world, post what you like, just don’t be surprised if people then think what they like.

Try this. Pick someone you know, imagine you have a juicy job for them, and then spend time seeing what you can dig up online about them. At the end of it, are you mightily impressed, vaguely neutral in a “meh” sort of way, or deeply into OMG territory?

Now let’s talk about you. You’re smart, you work hard and you’re ambitious, perhaps with dreams of Audis and yachts. You’ve got a lot to offer the world and it’s about time someone took notice and gave you more responsibility, right? So let’s say you’ve submitted your CV and an application for that leg-up job. When your potential employer looks at you, is your online presence a shining beacon of light flashing “Pick me! Pick me!” or are you lost in an uninspiring grey sea of collectively-drowning candidates?

Maybe there’s a promotion coming up, your line manager has put you forward and you’re the only viable internal candidate. It’s a slam-dunk. Except … there’s that cherished (and well shared) picture of you on a stag weekend, hammered beyond belief, dressed in red and using a chainsaw to mow the words “I will kill again!” into a field whilst you wait for the Google satellite to drift over. Does it demonstrate your creative side, or is it a lead weight from HMS Millstone hanging around your neck?

Have you noticed your peers being lured away to newer pastures with acres of fresh green grass whilst you’re a wallflower in a concrete wilderness? If so, there’s a good chance your online presence has tumbleweed blowing across it. Anonymity is also a terrible curse, as you’re finding.

Be a new you

So, what can you do online to increase your chances of selection, promotion, or being head-hunted?


Employers WILL check you out. Thankfully, most people know to clean up their history, profiles, and general behavior when job-hunting. Sadly, most then also become rather anodyne. Simply not doing something objectionable adds nothing to your perceived value. Post to show yourself as the sort of character that an employer would just love to have on-board.

Join the real world

When you walk into a meeting at work, you’re never going to open with a tirade of, “I got wasted last night and woke up in a builder’s bed, there is absolutely no bog roll ANYWHERE in this whole f*cking building, the world’s so screwed if that nob gets into The White House – what’s his name? I think pink cars suck. Everyone get out of the way, I know what to do. God, you’re all ugly, what’s for lunch?” so why do the equivalent online? If you want to be seen as a professional, behave like one. Everywhere.

Make yourself interesting

Put yourself in the shoes of an employer. What would make you really interesting, as a candidate? Sure, you do a relevant job, you’ve got demonstrable skills and the right experience. That sounds like every other candidate, so what might move you to ‘great gal’ or ‘top bloke’ status? Think about the skills, interests, or activities that might add to your perceived value and show that person.

Show your journey

If you’re going to be someone who’s going somewhere, you’ve got to build momentum. How did you get here? Where are you heading? Show the mountains you’re conquering and scars from the route. Make someone think, “STOP THE BUS! I want this person on here.”

Be social

The clue is in the name – social media. Stop broadcasting and start engaging. Listen. Think. If you’re going to say something, move the discussion forward, don’t nuke it flat with ridicule and abuse. Be social with more people in your line of work, not just friends. Engage with people who do a similar job to you and engage with people who employ people like you. Don’t stick with the tools and networks you already have. Where else do the right people hang out?

Be radical

How much do you really know about your industry and the challenges it faces, relative to your peers? Why not be an expert and run an online commentary on issues, as events unfold? Why not become THE expert? If one thing will make a difference to your prospects it’s this, but you must put the work into the steps above, beforehand.

Here comes the spotlight

If you take all of the steps, taking the time to build momentum, you’ll make damn sure it’s worth an employer’s while to take notice of you. If Andy Warhol was right, using those online tools properly will get you the undivided attention of a recruiter or an employer for your fifteen minutes of fame, whilst they go, “Wow!”. Be who you need to be and you will get what you want to get.

About the author: Jon Gregory is an author, editor, blogger & trainer on all things job hunting, interview prep & career development.

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