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Social Networking and Your Job Search

Melissa Pollack spent 6 years working in the recruiting departments at some of the nation’s top law firms including Simpson Thacher, White & Case and Sonnenschein. She has been helping attorneys prepare their resumes and prepare for interviews for over 10 years.

I joined Facebook about 18 months ago.  It is, by far, my favorite way to waste time.  However, it has also shown me how very dangerous AND useful it can be for a job search.  So let’s go over some guidelines for “Facebooking” while looking for employment.

First off, and most importantly, check your security settings!  You don’t want a potential employer looking at *anything* on your page.  You need to control what information you provide to employers and the last thing they need to see is the picture of you having a beer in 1998.  Still concerned?  Change your name to be your first name and middle name instead of first name, last name.  Or use your maiden name.

Next, click on “Pictures of Me” and remove any tags of yourself on any incriminating photos.  This is especially important on photos posted by OTHER people – the host of the album controls the security setting, so if they’re letting anyone see those photos, it won’t be that hard for an employer to track them down.  What’s incriminating?  Your 3rd grade class photo is fine; the picture of you in a bikini in Cabo is not.  You need to be fully clothed, no alcohol/drugs and not doing anything dumb.  General rule of thumb: if you’re not sure, un-tag yourself.  You can always put it back later.

Now look at your profile page and delete any comments from others that are inappropriate, badly misspelled, insensitive or contain profanity.  Again, your security settings should keep employers from seeing your page, but if you’re “friends” with any of your professional references, you don’t want them seeing that stuff.

Think about your status updates (this applies to Twitter, too) before you post them.  Do you want former colleagues who might know of a job opening reading about how drunk you were last night?  Also, don’t be the person who posts every hour, or always posts about how much time you spent at the gym, or how miserable you are.

Another status update note: SPELL CHECK.  And don’t use “tween-speak” – no gr8, no LOL’s, OMG’s, etc. etc.  And use correct punctuation – know the difference between a comma and a semi-colon.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if a 4th grader could edit your work, you need to re-write it.

If you’re currently employed and looking for a new job, don’t say ANYTHING about your job search in your status updates or on your Wall.  And if one of your friends puts something on your Wall about it, delete it.  You also want to check your Wall daily, to make sure that your search stays private.

Also, before you accept any new friend requests from past or current professional colleagues (from the corner-office partner to the mailroom clerk); think about whether or not you want that person to see things about you.  I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t accept those friend requests –just think about it before you hit the “accept friend” button.

If you are unemployed, it is perfectly fine to use Facebook (and other social networking sites) to let people know you’re looking for a job.  It’s ok to post about your job search on a regular basis (say 3-4 times a week), but keep it upbeat.  You never know where a job lead is going to come from.  (True story: my sister found her current job because one of her Facebook friends knew she was looking and was approached by a former classmate to see if he knew of anyone looking for a job.  She is happily working in-house for a Fortune 100 company now.)

You can use the email feature to send messages to people whose email addresses you don’t have.  You can do searches by employer and see if anyone you know works at a company that you might be interested in working for.  You can ask friends to make introductions for you.  Get creative and be smart!

If you’re posting things on your site that make you look uneducated, insensitive, miserable, lazy or anything along those lines, no one is going to recommend you for a job.  So be thoughtful, careful and smart about how you use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and any public on-line forums and social networking sites.  Use them to your advantage and good luck!

Let Melissa help you with your legal resume. Request her at the JL Approved Resume Service !

Copyright Melissa Pollack 2009

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