Social Media Masterclass
It can be both your ally and your worst enemy when it comes to getting a job or a place at college or uni, so how can you make sure your social media profile is on your side? Here’s a little guide…
Social media platforms like SnapChat, Twitter, Instagram and so on have become such regular parts of our lives now that we barely notice them. You might not even use the term ‘social media’ to refer to them: they’re just things you use.
However, university admissions staff, employers and recruiters definitely DO use the term, and they’re definitely interested in what their prospective students or employees do online. It’s a great way for them to find out more about you. That might seem intrusive, but on the flip side, it’s also a great way for you to find out about them.
Why does this Matter?
It matters because once you leave school, your social media accounts are suddenly going to come in for some scrutiny from people beyond your circle of friends and family. That means anything you’ve put up there, from the mind-numbingly ordinary to the video of that night you ended up half-naked draped over a donkey, can be found. Potentially by people you’re asking to take you seriously.
Social Media Spring Clean
Of course, you’re entitled to a private life and to express yourself. You’re also entitled to a past, and to be young and idiotic. But it’s pretty easy to tidy up the public elements of your social media life, and if it saves you some embarrassment (or missing out on jobs) in the future it’s probably worth it.
There are a few steps to Spring cleaning your social media presence:
– Clean your profile
Check your usernames, profile pics and email addresses. If your current profile pic shows you daubed in blood, looking like you’ve spent a year on a Bear Grylls show, it’s probably not going to impress people deciding whether or not to give you a job. Same goes for email addresses like email@example.com – swap them for something a little more professional, ideally just your name; and put a neutral, cheerful pic up.
– Clean your feed
What’s actually up there? Go back through your Instagram and YouTube posts, anything public on Facebook, your recent tweets and so on. If anything makes you blush, take it down. A good rule of thumb is: would you be happy for your grandma (or someone else’s grandma) to see it? If it passes the grandma test, you’ll probably be alright.
– Clean your forgotten profiles
You might have seen the recent stories about Tom Hardy’s old MySpace page and so on – you never know what a search can throw up. Take down any defunct profiles, and carefully check your privacy settings on anything you still use. People have lost their jobs because of tweets or ill-judged Facebook posts, so think before you hit ‘Enter’. A quick Google of yourself will show you what other people can find, too.
Make it Work for You
Social media can be a great tool for keeping in touch with your friends, but it can also help you find out more about the unis, colleges or employers you’re interested in.
– Researching courses, colleges and unis
You’ll find a lot of official information on an institution’s website, which will tell you about courses and so on in detail. But to get a sense of the personality of a Students’ Union, or to keep up with news and the daily life of a place, head to Twitter. Many SUs have their own feeds, and there will often be special hashtags for things like Open Days and Fresher Events.
It’s also a great way of seeing what people are saying about a place, and – just as importantly – seeing how the place responds to them. If it has a Facebook presence, the same rules apply. Are people’s genuine questions met with a friendly, helpful answer? Good. Or are they met with withering sarcasm? Not so good….
– Investigating employers
It’s a similar story for places you might want to work. What’s their social media presence like? This might not always matter (a little glass blowing workshop might not need a jaunty Twitter account; a giant digital agency should have a killer one), but it can give you an indication of what the company is like. Have a look at their website, Twitter and Facebook and see if people are saying positive things.
Professional platform LinkedIn can be handy here, too, as it lets you look at the senior figures in an organisation and find out their interests and specialisms, which might give you something to talk about in an interview.
– Building up your knowledge
You can also use social media to brush up on your subject or industry knowledge ahead of an interview. If a uni department is posting about research relevant to the course you’ve applied for, have a quick look: it might help when you’re answering questions about what interests you about a subject.
Likewise, following a company or seeing what industry figures are blogging about on LinkedIn will give you a bit of insight – brilliant for talking about why you want to work in a particular sector and what recent developments you find exciting.
– Making Friends
You can also chat with your peers on platforms like The Student Room, to see what they’re saying about unis, courses and job seeking; or just to talk about life after GCSEs and A Levels. You can often meet people who will be on your course or in your halls on forums or Facebook, so you’ll know each other once you arrive.
The usual online safety rules apply, of course (don’t share personal details, don’t agree to meet in private, don’t say where you live, and remember to be civil at all times: you’re all in the same boat, and it saves any potential awkwardness on the first day of term when you meet face-to-face.
Show your Best Self
No-one is saying your social media presence should be dry and dull – in fact, it can show people that you live a full life and are interested in the world around you. Instead, it’s about being aware of who might be watching, and making some careful choices about what you share and where you share it (or being happy to talk about the things that you do share in interviews).
Rather than seeing social media management as a restriction, see it as a way of showing unis, employers etc. that you’re professional, enthusiastic, employable…someone they’ll want to have around, in other words. And then share the party pics on your private feed to your heart’s content.
Is Anyone Watching?
Do universities and employers really look at social media profiles? In a word: yes. It’s right there in public and we all post stuff of our own free will, after all, so it’s not like they’re sneaking into your bedroom and rummaging through your stuff. Hiring or offering a place to someone is expensive, and a social media search costs nothing, so people really do check up on your online life!
YouTube can offer a great window into multiple worlds (just don’t read the comments – oh, the humanity). For example, companies might post training guides there or promotional materials about their Apprenticeships; some even offer advice on interviews, applications and more, so it’s always worth a quick look. The same goes for unis – you might find advice guides, vids from uni societies or even films that students have made, alongside tips on writing your UCAS personal statement.
Getting a Job with Social Media
You can follow employers that interest you on Twitter and set up notifications so you hear about job vacancies, internships and Apprenticeships as soon as they’re announced. You can also use LinkedIn to ask about internships and work experience: contact employers directly with a CV and clear covering letter explaining what you’re looking for and why you’d be a good fit with the company. Students are the fastest growing user group on the platform for a reason!
If you’re clever with your use of social media it can even form part of a job / uni / Apprenticeship application. You could set up a special Instagram account for any voluntary work you do, for example, or create a YouTube video showing you taking part in any sports and extra-curricular activities you enjoy. Then add a link or two to your CV or application form. It all helps to show people more about you and will make you stand out from the crowd.