Un-Friending Big Brother

A friend recently posted “unsolicited advice” (her words, not mine) on her Facebook account, warning young people seeking employment to know and monitor the information about them on social networking sites.  I wondered why they don’t just make their profiles private?

Employers searching for online information about job candidates is nothing new, it’s just become more prevalent (and easier!) in this age of social media. People still, however, have more control than they think when it comes to what is seen by whom.

Though nearly hidden, Facebook allows users to remain almost completely anonymous. This would, of course, defeat the purpose of social networking, but may be a tool to use temporarily, particularly when job seeking.

A friend set up his account in such a way that only family members (and, I suppose, close friends) are able to see what he’s up to. This may seem like an extreme measure to take, but it serves his needs quite well. He wanted to be part of the ‘scene,’ but also wanted to protect his privacy.

Social media has, though, become an integral part of our lives. For those who don’t want to completely erase their ‘footprint,’ I suggest creating a ‘professional’ online presence.

I have multiple accounts on various social networking sites, each with its own privacy settings. Because I use LinkedIn for freelance opportunities and professional networking, I’ve set up the account to allow virtually anyone to contact me, and see my information.

On the other hand, I have two accounts each for Facebook and Twitter: one for personal posts, and another that takes on more of a professional tone.

I use my initials (you could also use a nickname) for my personal sites, and my full, legal name for the ‘work accounts.’ I don’t cross-link the accounts (no ‘friending’ or ‘liking’).

The result is that — for the most part — I am able to maintain two separate online identities, while controlling what information is seen by what people. Because I’m not really outright hiding anything from anyone, I’m sure the potential exists for an employer to realize my ‘ruse,’ but online subterfuge was never really part of the plan, in the first place.

Another aspect of my ‘unsolicited advice’ for young people would be to create a website dedicated to their professional endeavors. ‘JaneSmith.com’ or ‘BestChefSanFrancisco.net’ — something along those lines.

The site will become a ‘living resume’ and online portfolio that you can include in your job seeking correspondence. Provided you make a commitment to frequently update content, it will also have the added benefit of displaying first (or of the first) in search results.

Maintaining an online presence doesn’t have to be a compromise of security or privacy. You can protect your online identity. If employers want to try and find something online that might disqualify you from a position, show them you can ‘play the game’ better than them.

by Enid Ahylhienatta | Technology Consultant | Residential Life Magazine

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