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Social media can kill your career -- but not the way you think

Why to avoid being overexposed in a digital world
Rachel Farrell, Special to

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Social media has become the norm, both as a part of everyday life and as an integral part of your success or failure during your job search. You hear all the time about how to utilize social media as an essential part of your job search or about social media as one of the many ways you can get fired -- or not hired.

Usually when we talk about social media as a firing or non-hiring mechanism, it's in the context of your digital footprint: not posting inappropriate photos, racial slurs or nasty comments about your boss and colleagues, for example.

But now there's a new piece of the puzzle to consider: if an employer sees that you're overly active on social media -- they might question your professional commitment.

"If you are very active on social media an employer should question how your online activity is contributing to the company's mission and achievement of your individual goals," says Michael R. Neece, president and COO of "An employer would certainly ask what is not getting done by you spending so much time socializing on social media sites."

There is the possibility that your social media activity is being mistaken for personal use when really, you're using it for professional reasons. If that's the case and you're still lucky enough to get an interview, address the issue verbally, says Ginny Clarke, president and CEO, Talent Optimization Partners.

"You might indicate that you were in active job seeking mode – presuming the overexposure was in terms of frequency, not questionable content," she says.

So what's the happy medium between being visible on social media but not so much that it ruins your chances at finding a new job?

"Most employers are looking at social media sites to find qualified job candidates," Clarke says. "Your goal is to be visible for networking purposes and to have a professional and personal profile that are up-to-date and descriptive enough for someone to make an preliminary screening of your suitability for a potential opportunity."

Aljolynn Sperber, account executive and social media manager, Marketing Maven Public Relations, Inc., says that having at least a Facebook and/or Twitter profile on the Web will do the trick  --  you just have to be cautious about your privacy settings.

"Just be smart about what is posted and customize your privacy settings. Good rule of thumb, don't post anything on the Internet that you might regret later," she says.

Here are six tips to avoid social media overkill and manage your online presence effectively:

1. Add to the conversation
"Use LinkedIn to post your résumé online, contribute to industry- and occupation-specific discussions," Neece says.

2. Have more than one account
Have two social media accounts, Sperber says. "One that is geared toward your desired industry so employers can see that you're attempting to be active and another one for personal use." Be sure to protect your profiles so they aren't accessible to the public.

3. Score face time
"Use online resources to get face-to-face or voice-to-voice with another person.  Each of us is most memorable and most influential in-person," Neece says.

4. Just say no
If your social media profiles are protected and a potential employer requests to follow you, don't feel obligated to accept, Sperber says. "That's what your other 'professional' account is for."

5. Stay positive
"Don't bad mouth any of the companies that you're applying to, especially if you feel the interview didn't go well," Sperber says. If you put something on the Internet, it's out there for anyone to see.

6. Keep things to yourself
Don't publicize that you're going to an interview or just finished an interview at a company. Some companies do not like to have their recruiting process -- or that they're even having one -- publicized, Sperber says.

Last Updated: 08/03/2011 - 5:46 PM

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