Proper use of social networking sites

October 8th, 2009

In theory everyone in the world is connected by six degrees of separation. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to utilize this when in midst of your career or internship search. Today’s social networking environment, however, is becoming easier and easier to connect to others without a firm set of standards of “do’s and don’ts.”

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace are often casual, but it is important to understand there are professional repercussions for everything you may post.

Potential employers (from babysitting on up) often use social networking sites to “research” potential employees and current employees. Uploading the wrong picture or having a negative status update could be costly. Keep this in mind when adding your pictures from Saturday night’s party or commenting about a class or professor.

Never post or upload anything on a social networking Web site you wouldn’t want a potential employer to look at or discuss during your interview.

Not all networking sites are the same. With the increased popularity of “professional” social networking sites such as LinkedIn, students and professionals are able to take advantage of all the benefits of six degrees of separation.

LinkedIn, founded in May 2003 by Reid Hoffman, has connected over 47 million people all across the globe including executives from all Fortune 500 companies. Students and business professionals create online profiles to seek jobs and network with others.

Your LinkedIn profile allows you to list the companies you’ve worked for as well as any professional associations, internships and summer jobs. After adding these experiences, LinkedIn will show you all the colleagues and other people who’ve listed those companies and organizations in their profile so you can add them as a connection.

Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn will suggest people you may know and include the degree of separation you have. In addition to suggestions from LinkedIn, you may ask your connections to make an introduction for you. A previous co-worker or friend may know the HR manager at ABC Company where you applied. LinkedIn allows you to ask your connection to make the introduction to the human resources manager for you in a formal request.

It is advised to not add just anyone to build up your number of connections on LinkedIn. According to LinkedIn, if five people tell the site that you’ve tried to connect without really knowing them, you will be blacklisted which makes it harder to make connections.

It is important to remember LinkedIn is not Facebook. Don’t update your status every time your mood changes. LinkedIn has found its niche within social networking, and acknowledges their differences.

“LinkedIn is the office, Facebook is the barbecue in the backyard, and Myspace is the bar,” Hoffman said.

All JCU students are invited to create a LinkedIn profile and join the Carroll Contacts group to network with each other, alumni and other professionals.