Getting back into the workforce after spending time at home with kids has always been a challenge. But today, with the proliferation of social media, it can be an additional hurdle to turn what have been your personal musings and reflections on life into a professional online profile as you hunt for that perfect job.
So, where should you start?
1. Start at the beginning.
Check your profile on your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest accounts. Are they up to date? Do you have your professional qualifications listed with greater weight than your personal ones? Are you trying to be funny in your profile? This is good if you want to be hired as a humour writer or comedian, but maybe not as a corporate marketer. Is your picture professional? Are your credentials all listed, and of course, are they all true?
2. Check your followers.
Who do you follow, and who follows you? This can be a tedious process. But if your stream is full of porn stars, reality "celebrities" and people with strong political or religious views, this could be a problem. Many organizations do a full social media review during their hiring process, including who you associate with.
3. Who have you/are you retweeting?
The absolutely incorrect answer is "no one." Follow professionals and media outlets that share information relevant to the field you want to work in. RT articles and thoughts that make sense, adding your own comments where there is room. STOP RT'ing cute or pithy quotes from other sources, unless you can add relevance to it as well.
4. Do not, do not, do not engage in social media arguments.
Don't even take them "offline" to an email or direct message format, as those can be screenshot and shared by your adversary as easily as you posting them publicly the first time. Learn not to have to have the last word and when to let things go. As loathe as it is to admit, half your "audience" will agree with the person you are fighting with. At least half.
5. That quote about not opening your mouth and proving that you're stupid?
That can be related to social media as well. Don't comment on things that you don't have a great knowledge about, or you will risk looking stupid.
6. Don't be an online "ambulance chaser."
Many websites and social media posters will try to drive traffic by excitedly posting about how to talk to your kids about the latest school shooting, or taking on someone who bullied a child or an adult, or a celebrity who has done something "wrong" in the public eye. While you might gain followers or spike traffic on your site, you will become associated with people who stand on the sidelines, gossiping about the actions of others instead of creating your own actions.
7. Grammar and spelling DO matter.
If you know you are challenged (seriously, it's "they're," "their" and "there") write your posts out in a program which allows you to spell check first. If you are in doubt, don't post it. Take a spelling or grammar course if social media is going to be a key way for you to either job search or increase your value in the work world.
8. Don't "vaguebook" or be a passive aggressive Twitter poster.
Half of your audience will roll their eyes and the other half will respond with doubtful empathy. All of them will know you are looking for attention the way a child with a tiny scrape looks to his mother for attention.
9. Don't share other people's bad news.
You know a neighbour down the street whose child was in an accident? Not your news to share and shows that you have little "real" sympathy. Help them out in person, and keep that private.
10. Show that you are keeping on top of the industry.
Read relevant publications, trade and otherwise, and share the articles.
11. Don't ask people to "like" a quote or an obvious sentiment.
"Post this on your wall if you love your children!"
12. Don't spam influencers.
Don't include @TwitterName of someone you want to impress in every article you write and want to share. It's embarrassing. Tweet it out under your own stream, and ask influencer friends you have to share it, but don't shove it someone's face. It's not polite.
13. Don't swear on-line.
14. Success is not a zero-sum game.
When someone you feel you compete with for work lands a contract or job you coveted, congratulate them publicly. They already have the job, the least you can do is look gracious. People see this, and everybody wins. And it comes naturally after a while.
15) The "In the Mirror" or "At the Bar" Selfie.
Stop doing that. That's all.
The social media profile you have built up over these many channels can be a terrific marketing tool when it comes to creating your "sell sheet" in terms of numbers, but the real profile of who people think you are is a much more valuable marketing tool than most suspect. Guard it and build it carefully.
Kathy Buckworth is the author of "I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business" (McClelland & Stewart), available at bookstores everywhere.
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