I have been drawing a blank over the past month or two over what to write about for my next article. Recently, I did a presentation for the 2016 class of the Queen’s Accelerated MBA program (one of my alma maters), and it gave me some inspiration. The presentation was all about “Personal Branding” (a term that is overused, probably misused, and that I hesitate to use myself … but I digress) and how to better position yourself to move your career forward.
I realize that everyone and their brother (myself included) writes articles such as “How to Improve your LinkedIn Profile in 5 Easy Steps”. But far fewer people talk about what actually happens behind the scenes within companies as they research and scour social media profiles of possible candidates. So, that’s what this article is about. Here are true stories about what companies and firms do with the information you choose to make public.
– “Talent-Mapping” – Big banks, Big oil companies, Big telecom, Big 4 accounting and law firms, and large recruiting firms (among others) do something called “Talent-Mapping”. This is the process whereby they gather information to put together an organizational chart of their competitors before they reach out to prospective candidates. If you aren’t “findable”, you miss out on potentially great opportunities. However, if the content you make public is questionable [obscenities, unpolished (e.g., grammar or spelling mistakes), or there are inappropriate photos], this also might take you out of the running.
– Internal Promotions – Companies are constantly looking to promote from within. Everything else being equal, the current employee who they believe will represent the company the best, be the most polished, and be the greatest advocate for the corporation, will get the job. Your public social media profile, if done right, provides you with a distinct advantage over someone with the same qualifications and a lesser social media presence. (Obviously, you will still have to interview for the job, but if you can show that you care about the company as much as your professional image, this will definitely help.
– Recommendations – A friend of mine once introduced me to a close friend of his who is a lawyer. Since ZSA has a division that specializes in legal recruiting, he knew I was going to be able to make the right introduction to help him. Said lawyer and I spoke, he seemed presentable on the phone, and he went to a good law school, so I thought pretty highly of him… until I started following him on Twitter and reading his posts. They were replete with obscenities, off colour language, and the content was generally quite negative. Needless to say, I declined to represent him and did not make any introductions to my legal counterparts. Make sure you are polished, presentable, and positive enough so that others would be proud to recommend you.
– Your Next Opportunity – You never know where your next opportunity will come from. If your profile is up to date and you stay connected to your network, your next opportunity might very well fall into your lap. That is exactly what happened with my current position at ZSA. I had started my own accounting recruitment firm while I finished my MBA, and two weeks after I launched and updated my LinkedIn status, the CEO of ZSA called me and asked me whether I was interested in having a coffee. That coffee led us to creating the new accounting recruitment division of ZSA. The rest is history.
– Politics and Religion – Unless you are a politician or the Pope, keep politics and religion out of your LinkedIn and professional Twitter feeds as much as possible. There are a number of people I have chosen to stop following online because of constant controversial articles that have been shared or negative opinions that have been tweeted. I’m sure most of you can say the same.
In summary, remember that everything you do online can either help or hinder your career. The next time you consider sharing something online, think long and hard about what effects it could have.