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CareerSource Connection 6/8/14: Are your LinkedIn to your area networks?

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I have a good friend whose boss told her she needed to ratchet up her professional networking starting with LinkedIn. 

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For those of you already “in,” that may seem like a no-brainer. After all, LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 300 million members in over 200 countries and territories. Given that professionals are signing up to join LinkedIn at a rate of more than two new members per second, you can well imagine what its worldwide network will be by the time this goes to print.

Moreover, there are more than 39 million students and recent college graduates on LinkedIn, representing the network’s fastest-growing demographic.

My friend is a few decades removed from college age. Complaining that she “doesn’t do social media,” she grudgingly set up a LinkedIn account and to date has 20 contacts in her network. But that was more than a year ago and 40 percent of her 20 contacts are family members. 

Clearly, she hasn’t “worked” her LinkedIn account, hasn’t strategically developed a viable network. She is not alone. I often hear from those in their 40s and 50s who refuse to invest in developing a social media profile for a variety of reasons. Some think it is just a bunch of “Facebook fluff” and see it as sharing intimate and irrelevant details of their lives for all to see. Others say they are concerned about privacy issues. Still others just don’t get the connection, albeit the latter usually comes from younger job seekers who typically have robust social media networks, though not what you would consider professional. 

Regardless of the reason, and whatever your age, not investing in a professional social profile is as bad, if not more so, than not having a social media footprint at all — and that is pretty bad.

In his blog, “Why your employer/manager should encourage you to update your professional profile,” LinkedIn influencer Marc Harrison noted that “Social media is a powerful tool — it’s independent, fast-moving, diverse and engaging. In regards to professional interests, I’ve come to understand just how powerful these platforms can be in catalyzing a community.”

Harrison, who happens to be chief executive officer of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, went on to say that “In new professional encounters, it’s become a standard practice to search online before a meeting. Viewing someone’s professional social media profile helps to get a sense of who they are, where they’ve worked and how we can relate professionally and personally. 

It represents a personal and professional brand.”

Equally important: company LinkedIn profiles rely on employees for content and account administration. Anyone interested in learning about the corporate culture, values and mission of a company will likely turn to their LinkedIn profile to gauge whether they want to work for, or do business with, them. It makes sense that companies would have a vested interest in conveying a polished, professional image.

I realize that Citrus County may seem far removed from Cleveland, let alone Abu Dhabi, but Harrison is on the mark. And certainly what’s good for those who are employed is equally important, if not more so, for those seeking employment.

Jerry Flanders, our workshop coordinator, confirmed that checking a job candidate’s social media footprint is the current trend for employers because they want to know “does the individual they see on the resume match the profile they may see in their social media.” 

And just as the terms “selfie” and “#hashtag” are, for better or worse, now officially part of the lexicon, the reality of social media is not going away. Hiring managers are indeed checking candidates before interviews just as surely as job seekers research companies. 

Like it or not, if you don’t have a social media presence, you don’t exist in the virtual world we now live in. Think about how you research products and services, from a new washing machine to smartphone to the best pizza in town. You go online.

As important as having a social media profile is ensuring that it is professional. 

Amy Meek, president/CEO of United Way of Citrus County, can tell you what happens when what’s on the resume clashes with a candidate’s social media profile, or if that profile doesn’t show evidence of what’s claimed on the resume or application. 

“We had a candidate who really looked great on paper,” Meek said during a recent interview with Flanders for the Live United Today program. “I checked her social media page and she had curse words and racial things that United Way cannot be involved with in any way at all. So we immediately pulled her out. We didn’t even call her.

On the flip side, Meek noted that by reviewing a candidate’s social media profile, employers get a better sense of the job seeker’s professional associations and how they are plugged into the community. She said that there may even be connections in common that hiring managers can tap to learn more about the candidate.

That is why Meek believes “social media is a great tool for employers … but job seekers have got to have it cleaned up.” 

During the next few columns, we’ll examine some of the best practices for using the Holy Trinity of social media – LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – as part of, not in place of, an effective strategic job search campaign. 

 

Laura Byrnes, APR, is a Florida Certified Workforce Professional and communications manager at CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, formerly Workforce Connection. Please contact her at (352) 291-9559 or (800) 434-5627, ext. 1234 or lbyrnes@careersourceclm.com.