It is difficult to understate the importance of social media in today’s hyperconnected world, as it has become a leading medium encompassing everything from commerce to international diplomacy. For graduates and students, building a professional online presence is vital as they look to start and build a career, but doing so is fraught with challenges as we try to balance giving enough information to build an honest picture of our experience, interests and personality, without over-sharing.

Often, people err on the side of caution and stick to building a profile that is simply factual, says Frank Koo, head of LinkedIn’s Talent and Learning Solutions in Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan.

“The most common mistake made is simply a LinkedIn profile that does not go beyond stating what the person has done. Students and graduates should take time to put more context and colour in their LinkedIn profiles by describing in detail their achievements and interest. Recruiters have plenty of candidates to choose from. Make their lives easier by providing more details of what you have done and achieved, as well as what motivates you.”

 

“The most common mistake made is simply a LinkedIn profile that does not go beyond stating what the person has done.”

 

Koo suggests that users should try to build a rounded picture of their characters and to use the network to share content that is in line with their professional interests.

“On a professional network like LinkedIn, graduates should not shy away from sharing professional content that they find interesting, in the same way they share personal updates on Facebook and Twitter,” he says. “They should also post experience and thoughts on topics which they have good exposure to. This will showcase their thought leadership and encourage people of similar professional interest to be connected.”

That said, over-sharing is certainly something that graduates need to be aware of. Dr KyuJin Shim, Lecturer at the University of Melbourne and previously Assistant Professor of Corporate Communication at SMU, says that “avoid too much information” should be a mantra.

“Some students and graduates share their personal life stories, e.g., their love relationships, break-ups, being fired, even negative comments on their teachers and faculty,” she says. “None of this is smart.”

Negative comments are generally a bad idea, Dr Shim says, and often backfires. “Everyone should be very concerned about privacy settings, yes, but I strongly recommend that even though privacy levels are set strictly, anything on a Facebook or an Instagram can be shared with almost anyone worldwide. So, Golden Rule: One should not share one’s private life in a public place. That’s a form of insanity! Instead, one should protect one’s privacy and should try to stay positive all the way on social media platforms.”

Although people may feel that they have different platforms for different uses—for example, they may use Facebook for personal contacts, LinkedIn for professional, they need to be aware that everything that they post could be seen by recruiters.

“Of course, recruiters separate the personal from the professional. However, the bottom line is that every piece of information online—regardless whether professional or personal—is what creates a recruiter’s perception or impression of one,” Dr Shim says. “I manage my Facebook account only for my personal network, so the privacy setting is ‘for friends only.’ As to Twitter, blogs, or other public platforms, I use these for different purposes and in different settings, and I bear clearly in mind that their content should be geared totally for random audiences.

 

“The bottom line is that every piece of information online—regardless whether professional or personal—is what creates a recruiter’s perception or impression of one.”

 

“Again a Golden Rule: One always should—in fact, must–consider one’s target audience, plus the tone and manner of how one’s content should align with the expectations of that target audience.”

Graduates need to be aware that things that they have posted, no matter how long ago, can end up resurfacing. “One often should look over one’s past history on social media and clean up, clean out, if possible erase clutter and embarrassing stuff,” Dr Shim advises.

Another error that people make is to try to expand their network as widely as possible, mistaking the number of connections that they have for a measure of success.

“Volume has zero relationship to worth,” Dr Shim says. “It is much more important to consider how one maintains and builds relationships with influencers who actually can impact one’s references. And the real goal of social media engagement with any professional network is—or at least should be—to build a solid network that one can mobilise for endorsement. One’s network volume is no guarantee of one’s network quality. Nor does it enhance one’s reputation.”

In the same vein, LinkedIn’s Frank Koo suggests a quid pro quo approach that LinkedIn users don’t use enough to their benefit.

“LinkedIn also has a Recommendations function which allows a member’s connections to recommend the member based on their experience with him/her. It is a good practice for members to recommend people with good potential whom he/she has worked with in order to showcase their strengths and capabilities. This will potentially enable others to share recommendations about the member in return. Do bear in mind that recommendations should be authentic and supported with facts.”

Having a smaller, more targeted network of like-minded people means that users can be more comfortable with the things that they post, and to establish trust online, Dr Shim says. Even then, they need to use the same standards online that they do in real life to determine who they can trust and with what.

“Trust is the digital asset that can be earned only via engagement and relationship. So, explore and engage with both heart and mind. Social media is human-to-human relationship-building. It is not a communication-robots’ interface,” she says. “Put it this way: Online, one cannot easily or safely trust anyone else without a dose of actual feeling and instinct.”

This article was originally published on The SMU Blog.

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