GUEST POST: Hiring obstacles that the web poses to college grads

guestblogger.jpgToday we have a guest blogger at The Employer Handbook. It’s Lauren Bailey. Lauren is a freelance writer currently writing for bestcollegesonline.com. Among her preferred topics to cover, Lauren loves to write about higher education, tech in the classroom, and the college experience in general. Feel free to email her some comments!

(Want to guest blog at The Employer Handbook? Email me.)

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The generation of young adults now graduating college are facing a unique predicament that their parents did not when they searched for gainful employment. For one thing, they face some of the highest levels of unemployment we’ve ever seen. But I’m talking about a different challenge, one can that both hurt and bolster a grad’s chance at finding a job depending on how they approach it.

Of course, I’m talking about the web and the digital footprints that people leave on it every day.

Having grown up with the web–from chat rooms and message boards to social media hubs like Facebook and beyond–this generation of job seekers must now make sure that their digital trail doesn’t jeopardize their job prospects once they search for that entry level position after graduation. College grads need to create glowing and professional online personas so that potential employers take notice if they look them up.

It’s a tough job, especially if you’ve shared any personal information on social media networks, blogs, or other online services, but it’s definitely doable. Here are some tips I recommend for anyone trying to recreate their image online to appeal to employers.

Clean up your act.

Ok the first thing on the “to do” list is cleaning up whatever questionable posts, comments, pictures, and contributions that you have floating around on the web. Spend an entire day sifting through and deleting your previous social media profiles, accounts on message boards, forums, and old-school blogs (we’re looking at you, LiveJournal!). Don’t let nostalgia and sentiment hold you back from clearing the clutter and embarrassing moments from your online record. It might be hard to delete that blog you started as a college freshman in 2005, but it’s better to get rid of it now than have an HR manager mention it in a job interview.

Beef up security.

While it might be a good idea to delete the more incriminating things that you’ve said on the web, you certainly don’t have to delete everything you’ve ever said or done on the web. Social networks like Facebook are all but necessary in today’s social landscape; deleting them would be tantamount to giving up on your social life–maybe not that extreme, but you get the idea.

What I would advise is beefing up the security measures on all the social media profiles that you want to keep, particularly those you don’t want potential employers to find. The security features on services like Facebook are anything but clear, but it’s worth spending the time to figure them out so that only the right people can see your profile.

Shift your focus to professional networks.

The months before college graduation is the perfect time to start setting up profiles on professional networking sites. If you take the time to develop a robust and compelling profile on a site like LinkedIn before you graduate, then you’ll be way ahead of the curve in the job hunting process when you do finish school. And I want to emphasize that you should put a lot of time and thought into creating these profiles on professional networks; making a profile on LinkedIn isn’t like creating a new handle on Twitter. You have to carefully craft each word and strategically include just the right amount of information and credentials to make your case for employment. You need to look as polished and professional as possible when you start connecting with people in your desired industry.

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