How many young women know that the social media profile they develop can affect their chances of getting a job? I would hazard a guess and say not many. Whether used for socialising or networking, social media can either increase your chances of gaining employment or act as a hindrance.
There are currently 1.9 million young people between the ages of 16 to 24 who are not in education, employment or training in the UK – and many school leavers and 2013 university graduates are among the 53 per cent currently searching for a job.
Social media is now a ready tool for employers to pre-screen applicants, with 56 per cent of employers admitting to searching social media sites to check on a job applicant’s profile.
Popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter act as online identity cards, providing a snapshot into a user’s personality, likes and dislikes, political affiliations and even intimate details of their personal relationships.
Social media has normalised the sharing of information and personal details with strangers; details that you once had to earn the trust to get. Research has shown that nine per cent of young people in the UK say they have been rejected from jobs because of comments or photographs on their social media profile.
Disappointingly, data has not been collected about social media use by young women in the UK, despite women and young people being the biggest consumers of social media: 71 per cent of women use social media websites as opposed to 62 per cent of men; 62 per cent of Twitter users are female, as are 58 per cent of Facebook users. Men make up the majority on sites such as Google+ (64 per cent) and LinkedIn (54 per cent). Among young people, 83 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds use social media, with 84 per cent using Twitter and 30 per cent Facebook.
It’s important that young women make use of the privacy policies the different platforms have. Social media sites are constantly improving their privacy policies, offering users the choice of keeping their photographs and opinions private. Twitter users can create protected accounts where other users must request permission to follow and gain access to tweets. Facebook now allows users to customise their privacy settings and decide who can view pictures, statuses and personal information. In both instances, this allows the individual to create a restricted community where their information is shared.
Social media can actually enable young women to gain employment by providing a platform for them to showcase their skills and to network within their desired industry. Most companies and CEOs have a Facebook or Twitter profile. Following their feed and networking within particular industries can keep you informed and up to date with all the news, trends, job listings and important events to attend.
Linkedin is a site which is designed for users to “manage their professional identity”. Use it to upload a professional summary showcasing your skills and employment history to be seen by prospective employers. Creating a blog by using a site such as Blogger and WordPress, or a video channel such as YouTube can demonstrate your knowledge, talent and communication skills to a wider audience. It also could potentially lead to opportunities such as invitations to industry events, invitations to be a guest speaker, or actual employment.
For this to happen requires a more conscious use of social media. Those seeking employment need to rebrand themselves in a way that positively communicates who they are and their potential to prospective employers. That means removing any information or photographs which may discourage would-be employers from hiring you and refrain from posting any in the future, unless access to them is restricted. In the end it will be worth it.
Mesha McNeil is Digital Women UK’s youth engagement lead
Image credit: Guardian online