So you have decided that you need a change, whether you're fed up with your current job, want to change careers or you are looking for a new challenge. Most people think of the first step in this adventure as writing your CV, but I would say "don't get ahead of yourself." What we often forget is that in this information-driven world, we are very exposed. What we could hide in the past is now out in the open and, although I don't approve it, some employers take a sneaky peak at your social media profiles before they make a decision if they want to hire you.
Here are a few simple steps that will help you to avoid embarrassment and lose opportunities:
Step 1: Do an audit check of all your social media
Make a list of all the social media you have a profile on. Then ask yourself the following question: "Is that account professional?" Or if it's hard for you to define "professional", simply ask yourself "Would I like the recruiter to see this?" If yes, update it so that it emphasises the skills you want to be hired for. If you want to change a career and have a blog or a social media account that showcases your new skills, by all means polish the looks of it and content and put the link on your CV.
Step 2: Update your LinkedIn profile
A lot of recruiters use LinkedIn. Make sure your summary section is a good picture of what you have to offer. Write it in the first person. Think of it as your pitch. You are pitching for the recruiter's time. The name of the section is misleading - it's not meant to be the summary of your career. Instead, stress the skills you want to be hired for and your achievements.
Step 3: Hide or change what you don't want them to see
Did you put a "no" against any social media you listed under Step 1? If so, keep reading, as this is very important.
Go to Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else you have an account and:
- Check if people who are not your friends or followers can see your posts. Is there anything you wouldn't like a potential employer to see? If yes, change the privacy settings.
- Go through your photo albums and check if they are visible to the people not on your list. Make sure you make them invisible to the recruiters' prying eyes
- Last but not least, make sure your profile photo is decent and professional, so no drinks, no cigarettes... I suppose a photo of you and your cat may pay some dividends if the recruiter likes cats too but what if they are a dog person?
Step 4: Do a Google search on your name
The last thing you have to do is do a Google search on your name (both with and without the speech marks). That also includes a search on Google Images. It will remind you of the social media you have missed. It should also give you an idea of what is out there at the end of everybody's fingertips. If you can ask someone to remove a photo of you, drop them an email. Unfortunately, that's not always possible but at least it will show you what information Google collects about you and will be helpful in the future.
It may sound like a pain in the neck but it will help you immensely in your job search. The last thing you want is losing an opportunity because you're sporting an Arsenal T-shirt on your profile photo and the recruiter is a Spurs fan!
Anna-Jane Niznikowska is a Communications and Career Coach and Leadership Development Consultant. She is the founder of Telegraph Street and runs a Facebook group called Careers Academy for Women, helping women make bold choices in their careers with confidence, whether you want to find a better-paid job, change careers or are struggling to get back on the career ladder.