Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be great for connecting with friends or staying informed, but nowadays people are also using the sites as extensions of their résumés.
“Everybody is their own press secretary” on social media sites, according to Amos Snead, co-founder of the Beltway blog FamousDC and principal at public relations firm Story Partners.
He has a two-part philosophy for creating a marketable online identity. “You have to define the debate on your own terms,” he said, “and you want to tell your own story before someone else tells it for you.”
Snead suggests that job applicants be proactive online by registering a domain name, creating a website and maintaining an up-to-date LinkedIn profile.
“And be an adult on Facebook and Twitter,” he added.
Social media profiles can be used to highlight achievements and work experience and to link to blog posts and articles written by the account holder, said Ron Bonjean, partner at public affairs firm Singer Bonjean Strategies.
He also said job seekers should be able to demonstrate “online influence,” such as the number of LinkedIn connections or traffic data for a personal blog or website.
Ty Matsdorf, a former communications director for Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), recommended that job seekers draw positive attention to themselves by offering informed commentary and analysis and sharing interesting information on Twitter and Facebook.
“It’s not so much about promoting yourself but producing a quality product,” said Matsdorf, who is now war room director at American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic super PAC.
Job seekers need a clear idea of the online image they want to project, said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak, who said he has experienced ups and downs while building an online presence.
“Your accounts on places like Facebook and Twitter should reflect how you want people to see you,” he said, explaining that he aims to be seen as “informed, aggressive and thoughtful.”
Mind Your Manners
Closely related to the idea of creating a desirable online image is the pitfall of presenting an undesirable one.
Employers aren’t looking for “an opportunity to be impressed,” said Doug Heye, a strategist and former Republican National Committee spokesman. “They’re looking for red flags.” For example a tendency to engage in wars of words on Twitter could make an applicant look petty rather than informed, Heye said.
Christopher Hughes, a career adviser for American University’s School of Public Affairs, offered a simple rule for identifying personal red flags: “I wouldn’t keep anything on my Facebook that my grandmother would be offended by.”
Mackowiak said that an applicant’s social media footprint can reveal a fatal flaw: bad judgment.
“One of the things you look for when you’re hiring people on the Hill is discretion,” he said. “Twitter and Facebook make it hard to remain discreet unless you have good judgment.”