How to use different social media platforms to build your professional network

I know that it’s hard to believe that social media is good for things besides watching Kanye make a fool of himself at the Grammys…again.

There are many routes you can take in social media to build your professional network. (Credit: Anne Helmond)

There are many routes you can take in social media to build your professional network. (Credit: Anne Helmond)

However, if you’re interested in learning how to use different social media platforms to build an online presence (one you can be proud of) and grow your professional network, you’ll want to read on.

First things first

If you’re looking to grow your online presence in the hopes of getting your professional career started, you’re going to need to Google yourself to see what comes up in the results. If you haven’t heard the horror stories of young professionals being hired, and then fired, because of what was found during an online search, you’ll want to do yourself a favor and check out OnDevice Research’s May 29, 2013, post “Facebook costing 16-34s jobs in tough economic climate” by Sarah Quinn. “One in ten young people have been rejected for a job because of their social media profile,” says Quinn.  And it’s not just young adults in the United States; respondents from China, the UK, India, Brazil and Nigeria (ranging from 4%-16%) answered yes to: “Have you ever been rejected for a job because of comments or pictures on your online/social media profile?” Do yourself a favor and delete/un-tag anything you wouldn’t want to be asked about in a job interview.

However, you should know what laws protect your rights as an applicant to a job or as a student in a public college or university. Check out the National Conference of State Legislatures recap of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 laws that protect employees and students from “Employer Access to Social Media Usernames and Passwords.”

Now, how to use those social media platforms to your advantage

You likely are familiar with most of the forms of social media available to you, but do you really know how to use them to get a jumpstart on your career? Even if you aren’t sure which path your professional life will take, get ahead of the game with these tips from Career Services at Princeton.edu:

  • Join LinkedIn. Don’t just “request” your friends, and then never log in. Spend the time to build your profile and then find companies you may be interested in working/interning for. (For LinkedIn tips and mistakes to avoid, check out Melonie Dodaro’s October 29, 2013, post “6 Ways to Grow Your LinkedIn Connections” on Social Media Examiner.)
  • Build networks as you go. Find your classmates, family members and college professors and follow their lead. Remember, chances are, your professors work in the field they teach in and can help with connections.
  • Share your own content on Twitter, blogs and Facebook. Don’t be afraid to post something other than what you had for lunch. In fact, we suggest it!

Recently I was given an assignment from a professor to grow my own professional network, and to say I was a bit overwhelmed is an understatement. Using Twitter, however, was a good first step to being able to find like-minded people in the field you’re in/you hope to be in. If you already have a Twitter account but mostly use it to follow Jimmy Fallon and Eric Stonestreet (who I highly recommend you follow if you aren’t), you may want to make a “Professional List” to separate your professional contacts from the rest. I find this is especially helpful for keeping me focused on work/school related research. Plus it really helps you find other Twitter users to follow and network with, which is the ultimate goal in building a professional network.

One last bit of advice

I know we’re probably all sick of seeing #all #the #hashtags on every single Facebook, Instagram and Twitter post, but when those hashtags are actually useful, go seek them out. Finding the professionals in the area you’re looking to start your career in and watching (lurking) their Tweets is a great way to see what is being talked about. Then, follow suit and post your own!

Do you have any other professional networking tips to share with readers in regards to social media? Post below!

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