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Job Killers: Who you are online could help you land or lose a job

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Who you are and what you do online can help you land a job, but it could also be the reason you lose one.  We're looking at social media "job killers"- those common mistakes that could cost you a great opportunity.

The world of social media is flashy, fun, but to a job seeker, it's also serious business.  ECU Senior Kailyn White's social media marketing class demands it.  "We talk about assignments on Twitter with my professors," she said.  It's a tool that's paid off.  She's graduating in a month and already landed a job with an information technology company.

"When you were setting out to apply for internships the very first time, what did you do with your social media profiles?" asked 9 On Your Side's Andrea Blanford.  "I initially- I deleted my Facebook," White said.

"I've even had some students who've said, ‘You know there's information out there that other people have put on my account that I really do not want out there.  I'm going to completely shut my Facebook page down.'" said Karen Thompson, ECU Career Services Director.    She helps students and alumni use social media to find a job.  She says not activating your privacy settings on Facebook and other profiles is the biggest mistake you could make.   And job seeker Tikina Gibbs knows it.  "I think mine is pretty private," she said.  "I kind of joked with a lady I was talking with yesterday and I told her I had it locked down like Fort Knox because she couldn't find me."

Decades before social media changed the way we communicate, Joseph Kennedy put it like this, "It's not what you are that counts, it's what people think you are."  Now, with a single snap and a click, people are making decisions about "what you are" and what you stand for in a matter of seconds. 

"It is happening," said Robert Buhler, President of MMI Public Relations.   "It's happening here at MMI Public Relations.  I have not hired people based on their social profiles."

Buhler runs MMI PR in the heart of our state's research triangle park.  He trains employers across the country on how to recruit and research job candidates online and then track current employees' use of social media.  "Just because one person, maybe they're low on the totem pole, they represent the entire company," she said.  "And if they start making tweets or Facebook posts that are not in agreement with you or your policies, you need to monitor that."

Buhler says it doesn't matter your age or what job you're aiming for, there are obvious mistakes to avoid such as posting pictures of alcohol and using vulgar language.  But online, everything counts, even your grammar and spelling.  There are exceptions.  "On Twitter it's a little different because you're limited to 140 characters," explained White.  "So it's more acceptable to abbreviate and use text lingo."

Still, recruiting technology company Jobvite says 92% of employers are using social media to find and track job candidates.  And worse than pictures of drinking, 54% of employers react negatively to grammar and spelling mistakes on social profiles. 

What about getting personal online?  Buhler advises against it, but single mom Tikina Gibbs feels safe sharing every once in awhile.   "I mean they may see something about my family," she said.  "Every now and then if I'm having a down day I may put something but it's not anything that would be held against me or anything like that."

No matter if you're actively searching for a job, it's best to clean up your profiles now- before it's time to enter the ever-demanding job search.  "I know that I conducted myself on my social media outlets in a different way my sophomore year than I do now," said White.

Buhler says being too negative with your posts online could also be a job killer.  Also, for baby boomers, you could be dating yourself by sharing comments about the "good ole days."

With the ever-growing pool of blogs, tweets, and Linkedin articles, Buhler says even when you're present online, it's critical to set yourself apart.  "People are not commenting on the right things," he said.  If you're looking for a job in a particular field, Buhler says appeal to that audience even when you think no one's watching.  Follow their company on twitter, post and comment about what's going on in that particular industry—showing employers you're passionate.  And try not to get too personal, but if you have to… put your very best on display.

"You know on your Facebook page you can show that you're involved in community events," said Buhler.  "That's showing you're involved in charitable things.  We look at those things and we look at those as a plus."

Get started right now.  "You want to see content," he said.  "It's more quality over quantity."

Signing up for a slew of social profiles at the last minute to get noticed  might seem like a good strategy, but Buhler trains employers to see right through it.  "You know you go back, if the person's only been blogging about this particular topic for a week, they're probably not a thought leader in the industry," he said.  "If they've been blogging about it for the last two years, they probably have something to say."

Employers we talked with recommend Linkedin as the most reliable social platform- a professional online environment where employers are most likely to find you.  Thompson recommends even when applying with old-fashioned resumes or networking with business cards, try it with a social media twist.  She said, "One of the more current things that we're seeing is on the back of the business card, is to have a QR code that is a direct link to their Linkedin profile."



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