Sunday, February 22, 2009

Social Networks – How They Can Impact Your Scholarship, Internship, or Job Opportunities.

The Good News.

Technology has had a huge effect on recruitment - for candidates, recruitment professionals and employers alike. What this means for organizations is that sourcing talent through the internet is becoming progressively more important. Not only are employers and their agencies increasingly adopting online-only recruitment policies, but more and more are using social networking platforms such as Facebook and Linkedin to hunt for candidates. According to a study by CareerBuilder.com, one of the largest online job sites in the US, one in every five employers uses social networks to research information about job candidates.

Social media has entered the mainstream as a recruitment strategy; and many highly-recognized firms are connecting with applicants through their own profiles or pages on these sites. As an example, check out Ernst & Young Careers page in Facebook. They have a team dedicated to recruiting on Facebook, where applicants can ask questions, find information regarding contests, jobs, internships, links to related information, and discussion boards.

Online networks can become a lifeline for job or internship seekers. US unemployment hit a new 14-year high in October and according to online job advertising firm Monster, recruitment activity on the Web plunged to its lowest level in nearly three years. The economic crisis hitting firms across the globe has created a spike in usage of professional networks such as LinkedIn, the top professional Web network. Professional networking should be a top priority during unstable economic times.

While making it well worth jobseekers’ time and effort to have a presence online, it’s really only effective for those that take the time to develop their profile. Virtually anything in a profile shows up on a search, so students and employees should list educational background, awards, current and previous employment, current responsibilities, user groups, professional associations they belong to, expertise, and other information companies might seek. Tap into social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to create or expand positive online content about you.

The Bad News.

What you put on Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, or other social networks (or what your friends put there) could have a negative impact on your scholarship. According to Social Media and College Admissions, about one in five college admissions offices are searching social networking sites and using search engines (Google and Yahoo) to conduct background checks on potential students before awarding scholarships. Facebook and MySpace are the most commonly searched sites. The report, put out by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, expect presence of admissions offices on social networking sites to increase.

Recent surveys find that a growing number of job searches are being derailed by "digital dirt." The Internet is rife with inaccuracies, posturing, gossip and material presented out of context. All of which can wreak havoc on someone's digital footprint. Social networking Web sites can be mined with unintended or embarrassing anecdotes, and general Web searches sometimes reveal inconsistencies or resume inflation. This can, and has, eliminated candidates for internships and jobs.

There are a number of methods being used to collect information and create a virtual profile of you, such as searching and utilizing government records, free people searches, search engines, social network search engines, and paid searches. A number of companies (and college admissions offices) are also using facial recognition software. Think you’re safe by setting your profile to private? Or using an alias? Your personal information is still accessible to parents, professors, police, or employers. Even if your profile is private, there's little to stop your online contacts from copying and sharing your information or pictures with others, and tagging them. Removing possible incriminating pictures or information when it’s time to look for that scholarship or job may be more difficult than you think. So it's a good rule of thumb to avoid posting pictures or confessions that would humiliate you or a friend if they reached the wider world, because they very well could.

My suggestion – Google yourself; do an image search; log in to your social network and do a search. Do this regularly. (For more detailed information on searches, and tips for managing your digital footprint see What the Web knows about you.) Create a profile on a professional network, and link to professors, colleagues, and friends. Create or expand positive, professional online content on other social network sites. Search for companies with an online presence in Facebook or MySpace, and join. Make yourself highly visible, with a positive and professional image.

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