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Choosing Social Networking Sites to Help Launch Your Career

July 30, 2012

By: Cat Saunders

So you’ve decided to expand your online presence because you are thinking about your career. You are looking for work and know that prospective employers could very well be searching for you on Google to screen you and other candidates. You want to make sure that they find shining examples of your knowledge, abilities, and professionalism. You know that activity on social networking sites often populates the first page of search results. Now here’s the tricky part. What social networking sites do you join to impress prospective employers and build business relationships? With so many to choose from, things can get a little hairy. Allow me step in and introduce you to my favorite social networking sites that people are using to build their reputations online and network with professional contacts.


LinkedIn
This site exists strictly for professional networking. LinkedIn is allows you to create a virtual résumé, with sections for your personal information, experience, and education. The site’s main purpose is to allow registered users to find and maintain a list of trusted contacts that will allow you to find out if anyone you know works at a company of interest. LinkedIn can be used to find jobs, people, and business opportunities. Employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates. In addition, you can follow different companies and get notifications about any new opportunities. If you join just one site to build your professional online presence, this is the one to pick.


Google+
Google+ is a social networking site that allows you to find, follow, and engage with people and companies. Google+ is unique in that users can create “circles” to organize their contacts into smaller groups targeting specific people. Posts can be public or sent to certain circles, allowing users to easily decide who sees their content. Your connections do not know the names of the circles you have placed them in, only that they are in your circles. Unlike Facebook, Google+ is one-directional, meaning that one user can follow another user without the other user ever interacting back. Follow users to receive their public posts. If you grab their attention and are placed in one of their circles, you will also get posts that are not available to the general public. An advantage of Google+ is that it is a relatively new site with an extremely active community. This creates a greater likelihood of user engagement on a personal level, even with more high profile public figures, than on other more saturated sites. You can also search for jobs on Google+ using keywords.


Twitter
Twitter a social media site based on the creation and consumption of 140 character long posts called “tweets”. By following Twitter users, you can keep up to date on the opinions, stories, and news articles that interest you. Twitter can be used for networking, job seeking, connecting with businesses, and discovering what is cutting edge in your field. Like Google+, Twitter is one-directional. The best way to utilize Twitter is to hit “reply” and become a part of the discussion. Follow people in your industry and join chats to engage even further. While you can still enjoy Twitter without ever tweeting, creating your own content, “retweeting” posts made by others, and replying is crucial to creating your online presence. Twitter is home to a lively community of career counselors with great advice for meeting your career goals!


Pinterest
Pinterest, used by people and companies alike, allows users to post and arrange photos from web sites on “boards” that can be shared with other Pinterest members. Create multiple boards and caption photos to reflect different interests. You can “like”, “re-pin”, and comment on individual pins or entire boards that belong to other “pinners”. Follow a particular board or all of the boards created by a single user. There are many ways to use Pinterest to help your career. Create a resume board with a copy of your resume and pictures that have to do with your education and experiences. Develop portfolio boards with samples of previous projects. Pin photos from blog articles, news articles, and other web pages where you learned something valuable. Pin personal, but of course work appropriate, interests. Explore potential careers, employers, and industries and follow ones that are of interest. Remember that lots of career services offices are on Pinterest with great advice about job search strategies and more.


Quora
Quora is a community-driven site where users can post questions and receive answers from other members. Better answers are pushed to the top of the results and less helpful answers are pushed to the bottom by user votes. Quora asks for your real name and occupation, so creating thoughtful answers on Quora is a great way to build your professional reputation. This is especially true because Quora accounts often show up on the first page of Google searches when looking for someone. Learn more about what it is like to work in an occupation or industry by asking questions about the field. Make sure that your question has not already been asked, and do not use the site to directly ask for jobs. Quora is a great way to get information and make connections, especially if you do not know anyone in a particular field. Remember that the more valuable your answers are, the more likely your questions are to be seen.

If the idea of joining all of these sites is daunting, don’t stress about it. My advice is to choose quality over quantity. It is better to have thoughtful and more frequent interactions on a few sites you really enjoy than to have accounts on many social media sites that are rarely used. Be sure to use your real name when creating an account so that employers can find you. Also, never forget to maintain professionalism – don’t post anything that would tarnish the good name you are trying to build. That all being said, explore! Have fun with it! Next thing you know, you’ll be building a valuable professional online presence.

Cat Saunders is a UCSB alum who works as a Vocational Counselor in the Santa Barbara area. She can be found at www.catsaunders.com.

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