Social media plays a massive role in day-to-day life of so many of us, but how confident are you in using it to advance your career?
Online platforms like LinkedIn can be hugely beneficial if you know how to use them properly. Setting up a profile is something that most of us are advised to do during our final years at school or at some point in university, but besides being told it’s a useful resource to have, we’re not always aware of how to use it to our advantage.
So, how do you make the most of the platform? Is it really that essential? And can your use of your other social media channels impact your career? At the Food Matters Live Inspiring Careers Event held in London earlier this month, experts Louise Jones, Career Coach at City University of London; Vicky Ransley, Careers Consultant Team Leader in the Employability and Careers department at the University of Surrey; and Dr Sue Reeves, Head of Teaching and Learning at University of Roehampton, explained the key dos and don’ts of social media when it comes to your career. Here’s what they had to say:
What are the don’ts for social media?
- Don’t pick a profile photo on LinkedIn that you would use on more informal social media accounts like Facebook or Instagram.
- Don’t connect with someone you don’t know just to ask them for a job (on LinkedIn or any platform).
- Don’t post content you may regret, or facts relating to your sector area that you can’t confirm (applicable to all platforms.)
As with any form of social media, one of the key aspects to building your online image is your profile picture. When it comes to using a platform like LinkedIn however, you need to think carefully about the sort of image you choose. The site is there to help you make new connections and advancements in your career, so it needs to be something professional. As Louise explains: “Think about this as the professional image that you’re projecting to the world of where you want to get to”.
Alongside imagery, it’s also good to highlight what you want from your career on your profile, she adds. “Make it clear in your profile that you know what you’re looking for. Include what you’ve done so far, what you want to be doing and why, making sure that you have your experience history on there as well as your achievements.”
When online, it’s also important to be as respectful as you would be in person. If you wouldn’t ask someone for a job after meeting them for the first time at a networking event, you probably shouldn’t ask them for a role straight after connecting with them on LinkedIn. As Vicky says, “You need to build a bit more of a relationship before you can explore actual opportunities with them.”
Regardless of the platform, it’s important to be aware of what content you post, especially if it’s related to your sector. “In nutrition, there is a lot of false information,” explains Sue. “You need to be really careful about what you’re posting and make sure it is evidence based.” If you do interact and post information around your sector, just take a couple of minutes to fact-check what you’re sharing, and make sure it represents you and your sector expertise in a good light.
What are the dos for social media?
- Do think about the type of content you post and list on your profile and use it to build a strong personal brand that shows your interest in the sector you want to work in.
- Do connect with other people in your industry if you spot a relation between their career path and where you want to get to.
- Do use social platforms like LinkedIn to find upcoming online and in-person networking events.
When it comes to content posting, while you need to be wary about what you post, sharing the right information is a great way for employers to get an idea of who you are and where you want to head in your career. Using platforms like LinkedIn can help you show why you want to work in a specific sector, and that you’re tapped into what’s happening in that area of the industry. “Just make sure what you post fits in with your brand,” adds Sue. “Some of the big social media influencers really organise their content and schedule it months in advance. It might look like people are sort of tweeting or posting off the cuff, but actually a lot of it is planned, the content is very detailed, and they often really think about it to make sure it represents themselves and their brands accurately.”
While you shouldn’t approach people coldly with the expectation of receiving a job, social media can be a great way to learn from people working in the sector you’re interested in. On LinkedIn for example you can connect with other people from your university who might now be working in the industry you’re hoping to work in. “You can join your institution’s alumni groups to find out what people are doing from your course and connect with them,” continues Louise, “and use these interesting groups related to your sector to build your professional environment.”
If you’ve found someone in your industry who you’d like to connect with who lives nearby, it could be worth trying out “informational interviewing”, says Louise – where you could ask to meet with someone working in the sector you’re interested in, buy them a cup of tea and ask them questions around their career and how they got there. As Louise notes: “It’s a much softer, nicer introduction than asking straight off what opportunities are available in their company.” It’s an informal but great way to learn what it’s like working in an area of the industry you want to head into, as well as gather some tips on how you might put together a stand-out job application.
Social media spaces can also be great places to find specific industry-related events that are happening online, which give you the opportunity to practise more networking skills and build knowledge on your sector. “There are lots of online events”, says Sue. “There’s the MyNutriWeb webinars and journal clubs, and with some of those you get an opportunity to chat with the speakers and make connections in that way.”
Online platforms have certainly made networking opportunities more accessible, but it’s still a good idea to get out to events in person where you can. As Sue explains: “Networking doesn’t only have to be online. It’s good to look at conferences and events in an area that interests you, where you can meet like-minded people, or people working in the sector that you would like to be in.”