Social Media: screw or support your career?

Friday, August 21st, 2009 - Article, career management, Employment, Job Application, job search, Social Media, tutorial

Social Media: screw or support your career?

The social media revolution is being termed by some as the second industrial revolution. Facebook is now effectively the forth largest country in the world, although it is still smaller than China’s QZone at 300million; and it only took the iPod to reach 50million users in 3years, as opposed to the radio’s 38years.

Socail Media Revolution?

As a telecoms engineer myself, I’d say that most of these “since the steam engine” claimed revolutions are based on the back of the key technical developments in the world of telco. In my view of the modern world, Alexander Graham Bell is an equal of Albert Einstein. But it is the human side application of the technological development which has brought huge changes in what can be done and seen, where. Most importantly, for what cost. Where social media can be accessed and for what cost is key in terms of how many people could and therefore will access anything.

Social Media creates a high interactive human environment at a low cost – it is almost as good, some would say better, than being sat in the pub next to someone. It resultantly sucks in via sticky attraction large numbers of people. In fact, the interaction level is so good, many would claim their best friend is an online friend, over one they have actually physically met. As someone over 45, I find this conclusion strange. I don’t think I know anyone until I have shaken hands with them at minimum, and preferably shared a drink or a meal. Hence many of my age conclude that social media is something for the children. How wrong the statistics show this to be.

Using Facebook as our benchmark, the age of the average Facebook user is now closer to 35 than 15. In other words, where children and inquisitive users have gone first, the masses – pretty much in a way which wholly represents the global community on most demographics – have fully followed. The only demographic in which social media is excluding, comes back directly to cost. While ABC1’s have near 100% access, the unemployed and the below poverty level are not excluded, just restricted in their access technology. Rather than the latest PC sat on a broadband connection with a camera attached, think a five year old recycled mobile phone for a village in Africa.

The clear conclusion is that the higher the income and educational level, the more methods of access results in a greater amount of time they can access the social media platforms, the more systems they access more regularly.

The result is, the rich and educated leave a greater trail of self commentary about themselves over the internet, than do any other demographic. Self commentary, sounds much like self branding? In fact, if searched for using Google or any other search engine, it is a very full view ranging from both the positive to the “I would only tell my best friend this.” People, once engaged on these human interactive platforms, can get a bit verbose on line – you can see why they call it social media!

Who would find a such a trail of self commentary about you so interesting? Well, putting aside: your mother; or your new lover, trying to find out of you are married; and assuming you are not in any form a celebrity or person of note who would be of interest to an investigative journalist – why not your next employer?

Employment and Social Media

Many people know that various personal search and reference services exist, that focus on employees. These go beyond a credit checking service like a bank manager would use to find out if your credit is good enough to get a mortgage, to checking and verifying the key points of your whole career: educational institutes, key employers dates, positions held, etc. Now much as though in the past these were only deployed due to cost for high security and trust type positions, now their cost has come down to around the £100 per job applicant level. When the cost of a successful hire to an employer is around 2x base salary in year one (hire cost, base salary, bonuses and training), and the cost of an unsuccessful hire is 3.5x base salary – and when 15% of new hires don’t work out in the first 30days – you can you see that £100 represents great value to an employer.

Well, how about accessing more of this information for free? And what if it were actually written by the best source available – the job applicant candidate themselves?

A survey from CareerBuilder released this week shows that 45% of employers are using Social Media to screen job applicants, not just check on new employees.

Some may argue that this information is private, or personal, or not meant for that audience: ie, a future employer. But hang on, you typed it in, placed it in a searchable public domain, and let it sit there. You are hence defining your own brand, and reputation.

As the editor and Managing director of UKRecruiter, Louise Triance says: suggesting recruiters differentiate between a candidate’s work and personal life is mostly unrealistic. Boris Epstein writing on Mashable, gives candidates an outlined Social Media vetting process. You can see how an example of how we at Ajiri have used social media to check job applicants, in the article Drugs and Employment.

Do you want to see how employers are finding such information, and sourcing candidates form their own social media trails, beyond a simple Google Search or check of Facebook? Both employers, recruiters and job applicants should have a look at Jim Stroud’s The Searchologist.

Managing Social Media reputation

So at this point, you may be thinking: have I just lost a £50,000 job, for suggesting to someone I met online that it might be nice to meet up and do something soon?

No, most employers won’t exclude you for a small social indescretion – a whole trail of them is another point altogther. Plus we have not yet had a defining legal case yet, where an employee’s exclusion from a job application was mainly through their online or social media reputation. Employers and recruiters may be using the technology, but being cautious of the way in which they use the results. But I think with the developing search methods and employer useage of such options, that a legal test case can only be less than a 12month away.

The sensible job applicant will now be thinking: how can I clean up my social media reputation, or brand? Is deletion an option? Before you go and remove a whole social media profile, know that the Wayback machine will hang on to public stuff in its cache for a decade with ease. So even if you wiped it today, it would still be there in 2019!

Why not, as Dan Schwabel suggests in Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, take positive control of your online reputation? I showed through the Neville Keithley experiment how easily it was to take control of your own online brand. For half a days effort and no direct cost, I controlled 7 out of the first 10 Google results for searching the term Neville Keithley. Unfortunately, poor Neville died on 12th August – a wonderful character, sorely missed by his loving family: they have my full sympathies. Hence rightly the higher ranking notices of his obituary from the online versions of the newspapers, now supplement the national newspaper coverage of his self-funded advert in the Telegraph. But my results, unmaintained since April, still make up 2 of the first 10 results.

So, rather than trying to wipe away your Social Media footprint, my personal suggestion is to self-manage it. One of the best ways of doing so is to start a blog, and there are plenty of free to access platforms which rank well in Google including Blogger and WordPress. By managing your own social media reputation, employers will find the good stuff first, and the social media gossip will move backwards.

It is hence your choice which way you manage your social media reputation. The information exists, you put it there. It is now just a case or management, and therefore whether it screws and supports what you say in your job application, or just screws it…..

Good Luck!

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