Social networking sites. It’s hard to find someone these days who doesn’t communicate with friends, relatives or the world at large without one or more of these sites. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or another of the 400 sites available at any given time, it seems impossible to stay informed and in touch without a social media presence.
For professionals seeking their next job, the social networking site (SNS) of choice is usually LinkedIn. However, as Facebook has close to one billion registered users (compared with less than 200 million on LinkedIn) it seems short-sighted to exclude Facebook from your professional social networking and job search toolbox.
There are, of course, reasons not to use Facebook in your business life and job search, especially if you emphasize the “social” in social networking. If your Facebook page has long been a depository for photos, prose, pronouncements, and proselytizing, and privacy hasn’t been a priority, you may wish to avoid mixing business with pleasure here. Many a sad tale has been told about inappropriate Facebook content viewed by an employer, government agency, student body, or some other audience not intended to receive it, ultimately offending and/or outraging someone and leading to embarrassment, humiliation, even termination of employment.
There is a saying about discretion being the better part of valor. Nowhere is this more true than when using social networking sites. If you intend to “Facebook” more for professional purposes and less for socializing, you might want to conduct an audit of your “friends”, your “timeline” and your privacy settings.
As satisfying as it may be to have lots of “bfbffl”s (best Facebook friends for life), a large number of those folks are probably simply friends of friends or other acquaintances. If so, consider culling the group of those with whom you rarely communicate or, more importantly, those whose communications include inappropriate posts that may embarrass you (many users seem to forget that FB means Facebook, not F-Bombs). At the very least, change your settings so that any photos, wall posts, tags, or location “check ins” by friends that point back to you will require your review and approval before they go live. While it might be fun to reminisce with friends about the beach party you went to last weekend, you probably do not want your co-workers to read stories about how you had a few too many drinks and see photos of you dancing in a skimpy bathing suit.
It is also a good idea to use your privacy settings to limit access to only those whom you have authorized as friends. You can be “virtually” invisible to the world at large, accessible by invitation only, and it’s easy administer your privacy settings accordingly.
Given some of the risks using FB as a professional social networking and job search tool, is it wise to incorporate it into your business life, such as when looking for a job/seeking to change the one you have? Absolutely, and here’s not only why but how.
Remember that not only individuals use Facebook. Companies do as well. So do your colleagues, peers, former classmates and people who belong to the same organizations or clubs as you or participate in similar types of social, political, charitable or other types of activities as you do. Relationships based on shared interests often create bonds not unlike tribal or fraternity attachments. When those occur, formality gives way to familiarity and it becomes easier to ask for information such as who the go-to-person is in a company or who might be able to provide you professional guidance, career advice or otherwise act as a mentor. Networking is all about building and nurturing relationships, and that is what Facebook helps you do.
Another way to use Facebook to benefit your career is by becoming a friend with or subscriber to the page of a person or company whose products, services and/or philosophy interest you. You should also “like” those pages and ensure your settings permit you to accept their news feed while also ensuring that they do not receive your news feed unless you truly want them to. Doing so will keep you connected and up to date on the happenings of relevance to your career, and it will selectively keep others updated on what you are up, both of which increase your professional exposure. And exposure keeps you relevant.
Facebook as a job search tool: While caution and awareness about privacy issues are necessary, there’s also a great deal to “like”.