Social media can ruin your career, we both know that. Roseanne Barr, James Gunn, Reza Aslan, pick your example and run with it. You might not be a public figure, but the material fact remains that you don’t have to be, just an intern working at NASA with a slew of unsavoury tweets online. Whilst the evils of social media are writ large on every newspaper the minute 280-characters torch yet another career, the potential benefits skate on by unexplored – benefits you could be taking advantage of, and here’s how:
1. Stalk Anyone and Everyone
Admit it, you do it, I do it, it’s what social media was first built for, Facebook especially. But what was once creepy is so widely accepted that it has become part of the everyday, people have even begun to expect it – so why not use that?
You’re drafting an email to a stranger, you personalise it, sure, tailor it to their company or position, perhaps even refer to a mutual friend by way of an introduction. But how much do you know about their personality, will they take to a light-hearted joke, or are they more business-like than you might have otherwise thought? If they seem to be more of the former than the latter, as well as the type to appreciate someone who’s clearly done their research, perhaps take it one step further: include an observation about their social media. Striking the right tone here can clearly be tricky, stalking isn’t creepy now so much as admitting it is, but if you’ve managed to finesse the situation well enough, then you’re that much more likely to stand out from the crowd.
2. Google Yourself
You’ve stalked them, so you can guarantee they will have stalked you. Whoever that is, it can be a casual acquaintance or someone with hiring power, they will find information about you – make sure it’s the right information. Take thirty-seconds right now and save yourself a lot of wasted time and energy in the long-run.
3. Curate Your Content
This is a bit of a follow-on from the previous point. Yes, they will find you, no I’m not suggesting that you treat your profile like an exhibition at the Tate Modern. But what you retweet or share, particularly when relevant to your particular industry, speaks volumes about how business-minded you are. So, follow the companies relevant to your work life, engage in their comments section, familiarise yourself with the public persona they’re attempting to craft, and get the added perk of knowing whenever they have a vacancy straight from the horse’s mouth.
4. Work Doesn’t Stop at 4pm
Mobile phones have lengthened the standard working day from 9am to 4pm to the second we wake up or go to bed. Yes, that means your clients and employers can constantly contact you, but so too can your colleagues, and that can get uncomfortable. What boundaries do you set here, LinkedIn, fine, but your personal Facebook or Instagram? Sure, if you’ve properly set up your social media there’s nothing on there that can come back to haunt you, but there’s a degree of intimacy that might just not suit your workplace.
My advice: go on Facebook, accept their friend request, click on “Friends List” and from there make one for your colleagues. Then next time you find yourself humming and hawing over whether to publish that post, err on the safe side, alter its privacy settings and uncheck your colleagues. What they don’t know can’t hurt them.
Clearly, social media is like any other tool, it can cripple your career, but it can also improve your work life immensely. So, the next time a viral tweet causes yet another high-profile sacking, don’t get swept away by the anti-social media sentiment, instead just be glad that at least someone here is getting ahead with social media.