This whole recession business will be over sooner or later, and while you might be content waiting out the Great American Hiring Freeze in your current position, you need to be ready for the thaw when it comes. One of the best ways to show prospective employers that you’re candidate material is your profile on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks. After all, your profile is the 21st century equivalent of a calling card. It’s your first chance to make an impression on a recruiter or potential boss, so it pays to make it a good one.
Here are three easy ways to make a profile sparkle, thanks to Carri Bugbee, a Portland, Oregon, social media coach who won a Shorty Award for her clever Twitter personification of Mad Men’s aspiring career girl Peggy Olson.
Show the Real You
To build a social network following—always a good thing for career purposes—give people a taste of the real you. Set up accounts in your given name, upload a photo (not a cartoon), and write a short bio describing your current job and interests using job-specific keywords recruiters are bound to search for. Always include a link, even if it’s only to a resume or a project you’re especially proud of. It’s OK to make your profile aspirational —that is, include more about what you want to do than what you’re actually doing now. On the other hand don’t write too much—you’ll lose people after a few paragraphs.
Keep Up With the Times
If you’re a serial joiner, you may have profiles on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a dozen other networks. It's tricky to keep so many profiles updated with what’s happening in your professional life. Tricky, but worth it. If it helps, create a cheat sheet of your network accounts so when you’ve got a successful project or promotion to share, you can quickly run down the list—or use a service like Knowem.com to double check which social networks you’re on (or, should be on). You can also use an app like FriendFeed to broadcast status updates to multiple networks simultaneously.
Clean Up Your Act
We know you’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: Keep the pictures of that wild weekend in Cabo off Facebook. Seriously, if you must bare all—and we’re talking figuratively as well as literally—create a separate account under a pseudonym. Tell all your tell-all friends that if they care about you and your future job prospects not to tag you in compromising pictures on their Facebook pages either—if they’re real friends they’ll get it.
The best thing about polishing your social network profiles: It won’t cost you a dime, and could pay off in spades if it helps you land your dream job down the line.