Editor’s Note: For most of us, the wide world of technology is a wormhole of dubious trends with a side of jargon soup. If it’s not a bombardment of startups and tech trends (minimum viable product, Big Data, billion dollar IPO!) then it’s unrelenting feature mongering (Smart Everything! Siri!). What’s a level-headed guy with a few bucks in his pocket supposed to do? We’ve got an answer, and it’s not a ⌘+Option+Esc. Welcome to Decrypted, a new weekly commentary about tech’s place in the real world. Writer Darren Murph, the former Managing Editor of Engadget and a Guinness World Record holder for number of blog posts published, will spend some weeks demystifying and others criticizing, but it’ll all be in plain english. So take off your headphones, settle in for something longer than 140 characters and prepare to wise up.
Whether you’re on the hunt for a new career, thinking about striking out on your own, or simply polishing up your online resume, it’s vital to understand which networks matter in the world of employment. The Internet has created a universe where reputation matters even more than it used to. Moreover, it’s to your benefit to understand how networking happens in an interconnected world, where your next job is apt to come from, and how you should position yourself across a litany of different networks.
By and large, what comes up in search results of your name depends on you. Throw up drunken party pics every weekend, and that’s what folks are going to find. Swallow your political rants, and they can’t come back to haunt you. Social networks may feel like digital locker rooms or parties, where thoughts can be shared with your besties and then forgotten forever, but the permanence of the web should not be underestimated. When in doubt, keep it offline. Your future you will thank the present you, Inception-style. Otherwise, follow these simple (and pretty logical) tips.
This one’s dangerous. Facebook is the world’s largest social platform, and chances are you already have a profile on there. Meet someone new at a conference, schmooze with a potential boss, or ask for a promotion — chances are, your Facebook page will be scoped out. Facebook has done an exceptional job convincing people that its walls are ideal places for plastering updates about one’s political preferences, sharing hilariously distasteful videos and just generally acting a fool. Which is great, except everything on Facebook is, you know, permanent. Whenever you’re mulling a venting session on Facebook, consider the impression that it’ll make in five days, five months, and five years. Even if your current boss approves, might your next one?
I’d recommend culling your friend list to include only those who you are intimately familiar with and changing your Facebook privacy settings so that all new material that you post is seen exclusively by your friends. Facebook is not the network for accepting friend requests from folks you barely know. Generally speaking, one’s most personal information is shared on Facebook, so it behooves you to have that stuff seeping out to the smallest, most trusted group of people — those who will understand your jokes and not take things the wrong way.
It’s also smart to change your privacy settings. Only the most basic information about you should be visible to those who come to your page via a search engine. You don’t want your photo albums, wall posts, and mailing address accessible by anyone outside of those who you deliberately approve as a friend.
Ah, the wild west of social. The problem with Twitter is that it’s built to generate the most feedback when things are said in haste. Quick jokes, jabs, and jeers receive oodles of retweets and comments, which encourages behavior that any sensible executive would disapprove of.
First of all, you should use a cleaned-up, well-lit photo as your profile image. You’re also going to want to implement a ten second rule before posting anything: before slamming someone, fishing for a laugh with a questionable tweet, or just generally saying something that might offend, wait ten ticks of the clock. If you still have no qualms about the consequences, you’re probably clear. Otherwise, delete it and congratulate yourself.
As with Facebook, Twitter’s biggest downside for those who care deeply about their image is that tweets are searchable forever. Worse still, tweets are easy to view out of context, and with the service’s character limit, you rarely have room to explain yourself. Twitter is a tremendous tool for meeting new contacts and learning about personalities — tossing someone your Twitter handle is easier than spelling out a phone number, and it’s more globally appropriate, too. But as with Facebook, I’d argue that “less is more” when it comes to usage.
As an example, a history of aggressive tweets could easily be seen as a turn-off by a future employer, even if every single tweet was in jest. If you don’t believe the negative power of Twitter, just ask Justine Sacco how quickly things can crumble after firing off 140 regrettable characters.
It’s only a matter of time before “LinkedIn” becomes synonymous with “resume”. If you’re trying to take control of your career path, you simply have to be on LinkedIn. While other networking services exist, this one is the undisputed leader. Yes, crafting a complete profile takes days of work, but you’re going to want to exert the effort. Be sure to register your account with a personal email address, not a work-related one. In the event that you’re canned, you’ll want your LinkedIn profile to funnel messages to an inbox that you still have control of.
Get a professional photo taken. Dig up prior accolades. Map out your prior jobs, enhancing each one with a brief explanation as to how you contributed. List out your degree or degrees. And, whatever you do, make sure to include your Twitter handle and personal email so that folks who find you here can ping you about potential opportunities without having to run through official channels.
Unlike Facebook, I’d recommend connecting with just about anyone who requests on LinkedIn. There’s next to no downside to having more professional connections, and as I’ve learned, you truly don’t know where your next job opportunity is going to come from. Make sure to check in on your profile each month, updating and cleaning up where necessary so that your information doesn’t get stale and your achievements are current. Like it or not, this is where the world goes to find work.