Swipe left, swipe right. Today more than ever, it’s simple to use social media. But as young professionals, where do we draw the line? In a world where social capital is increasingly important, it’s critical that young professionals use social media as a tool to demonstrate leadership and make connections. But without a plan and clear strategy, most YPs can fall victim to mistakes that can be costly for their organization—or worse—for them personally.
A few months ago, I met a fellow YP who was transitioning between jobs. While there seemed to be plenty of opportunities in his field, calls for interviews simply weren’t coming in. In an attempt to be helpful, I started asking questions: Did his resume have a typo? Did he have the right experience? Was he sharing about his job search on social media?
After that last prompt, he grew quiet—and a pensive look crossed his face. “Every day!” was his reply. “Tell me more…” I said, curious to learn more. As he delved into his use of social media, I started jotting down pitfalls that plague young professionals (and many adults, too):
- Mistake #1: Treating social networking like “real” networking. Let’s be clear: social networks can have a huge networking benefit. I have met people who have landed jobs by networking online. But nothing can substitute for a face-to-face conversation. As busy as everyone is these days, I always encourage fellow YPs to make time for happy hours or be brave enough to request an informational interview. If you only work to advance your career from behind a screen, you’ll only get so far.
Mistake #2: Living two social media lives. I strongly encourage YPs to create separate social media accounts if they are using social to do their job. However, if the idea of your boss seeing your personal social media profiles makes you squirm, it’s good practice to ask yourself, “why?” Privacy settings exist to protect you, not as a veil to hide behind. Because YPs are more comfortable blurring personal and professional lines, we should hold ourselves to a higher level of accountability in regards to how we share and interact online.
- Mistake #3: Missing an opportunity to show leadership. No one can keep up with today’s rapid changes to technology. Fortunately, older generations tend to look to YPs for guidance. While it can be cumbersome to repeatedly explain the difference between Snapchat and Instagram, humbly helping your peers can demonstrate servant leadership that speaks volumes about your potential. If you share what comes naturally to you as a ‘digital native,’ you make yourself more valuable to an organization, not less.
- Mistake #4: Using social media when you should pick up the phone. Have you ever sent a message and the immediate response was, “Are you mad at me?” Writing is a beautiful form of communication, but make no mistake—sometimes you should address a sensitive conversation by phone or in person. To maintain professionalism, use discernment in this area. Ask: how would I best receive this message? Would I like to get this information via social media, or another way? If you aren’t sure of the answer, it’s best to make the phone call instead.
- Mistake #5: Oversharing. Last but not least, the most common mistake we see on social media—oversharing. Whether it’s too many hashtags, too many photos of a beloved cat, or too many posts about a stalled job search—almost everyone falls victim to this from time to time. Everything you share will have implications about how others perceive you, interact with you, and in some cases—if they will hire you. Take that into consideration next time you craft a post.
As for the fellow YP who was job searching? Once he turned his negative habit of daily rants on Facebook into productive social networking—he quickly landed a few interviews. Whether you’re searching for your next job or gainfully employed, I hope you’ll recognize these traps and remember that social media can be a positive tool—if you choose to take control.
About this post's author:
Jake Sinatra is manager - special projects & communications at Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC). Serving Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, CAC is one of the largest public funders of arts and culture in the nation. Since 2015, Jake has managed all aspects of CAC’s communications and worked across disciplines to lead specific projects in grantmaking and organization-wide. Jake has been a member of YNPN Cleveland since 2012.
Image credit: Freeimages.com/appanna