Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘Facebook

Protecting Job Seekers from Themselves: Germany Considering Facebook Hiring Ban

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Is this the start of a global movement to protect would-be employees from themselves? German politicians are weighing a new law that would ban employers from using dedicated social media sites—most notably Facebook—to help make hiring decisions.

man with binocularsUnder the terms of the proposed law, German employers would be restricted to professional sites such as LinkedIn when conducting background research on potential hires. And candidates would have the right to legal recourse if they found out that they had lost out on a position because an employer had based their decision on information gleaned from social media sites. (In a further protection of privacy, meanwhile, the proposed law also seeks to ban employers from secretly filming their employees.)

If passed, the law would be a welcome step away from people having to consider everything they do online as a potential red flag for employers. In short, it’s intended to allow people greater freedom to be themselves online—in exactly the same way that they can act differently at home and in the office—without fear of career repercussions.

Even if such a law would be unenforceable in any kind of practical sense (and it likely would be), the fact of its existence would at least clarify the issue in the minds of employers. The current situation—both in Germany and the U.S.—basically allows employers to set their own limitations as to how much of a candidate’s personal life they’re willing to take into consideration when making hiring decisions.

The proposed German law would remove that element of choice, and ensure that employers are at least aware of the expectation that all candidates are treated equally regarding recovery of online information. That not only includes candidates who may have been penalized for those photos from last year’s bachelor extravaganza in Vegas, but also those who choose not to maintain a social networking presence.

The bottom line for careerists in all this is that they shouldn’t be relying on government intervention to protect them from over-eager recruiters and HR personnel. Even if such a law were to exist in the U.S., best practice for use of social networking sites would still include regular checks of your privacy settings, and ensuring that things you wouldn’t want a prospective or current employer to see are either well hidden or erased completely.

As mentioned above, such a law would be a welcome step, but it would be just that—only a step, and a very small one at that. And, even if it were to become a global standard, careerists still wouldn’t be wise to let it all hang out in the social media sphere.

Extra Insight:
Your Job Search: Two Facebook Privacy Settings to Use Right Now
Five Things You Don’t Want Your Colleagues to See on Facebook
Is Social Media the Key to your Career Success?

Be a Twitter Genius: Lessons from John McCain

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Senator John McCain

AP Photo/Matt York

Although he came up short on votes in 2008, Arizona Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain isn’t lacking in “Digital IQ” points. As reported by Politico, a joint study of politicians’ “online competence” by George Washington University and NYU ranked McCain as a “Twitter Genius,” scoring significantly higher than fellow senators at utilizing the social tool. This may surprise some, given criticism of the septuagenarian from some quarters as being “out of touch;” yet, as he faces a tough reelection bid, McCain is relying on social networking to preserve his career. In doing so, this “genius” offers a model for professional advancement in 140 characters or less.

Establish yourself quickly. Following his 2008 defeat to Barack Obama (and candidate Obama’s superior command of social networking), McCain wasted little time adopting the format himself. Since 2009, he has tweeted frequently, drawing more than 1.7 million followers. Of course, those weren’t as hard to muster for someone who was already a prominent public figure, but the beauty of Twitter is that anyone can generate a sizeable following if they have something interesting to say. To get noticed, don’t be shy—alert friends and coworkers to your account’s existence, follow them, and branch out to their followers. As you build a network, maintain a steady stream of relevant content that invites discussion, spreads ideas, and shares your skills and accomplishments. Just describing your lunch probably won’t cut it.

Tweet outside the box. Anyone can tweet a few thoughts; it takes a genius to explore the potential of the format. John McCain exemplified this when he and George Stephanopoulos conducted an interview entirely via Twitter—the imposed character limit stripped down the political dialogue, allowing direct questions to be met with unadorned answers transmitted live to the world. With today’s workforce using social applications for job hunting and self-promotion, standing out from the crowd comes down to uniquely interacting with the community. For instance, try reaching out to fellow professionals about their careers and accomplishments, or asking for details of their company’s recruitment process—the discourse can be invaluable, both for the knowledge shared and the initiative displayed.

Attract powerful followers. The axiom “it’s who you know” is as true in politics as it is in business. But for an elected official, the goal is staying relevant. So when John McCain began exchanging tweets with Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” it was an unexpected twist that won him regard for connecting with a younger generation. For the rest of us, however, being followed by Kanye West might not grant a desired status boost. Instead, aim for the attention of leaders—buddying up with top brass or being retweeted by the likes of Richard Branson or Michael Dell will earn you notice as someone with eye-catching ideas.

It remains uncertain whether the displayed mastery of next-generation campaigning by Senator McCain (and, to be fair, his staff) will pay off in this election cycle. But regardless of one’s own political beliefs, the elder statesman’s resourceful embrace of technology is admirable and inspiring. As workers of all stripes wrestle with new challenges presented by an uncertain economy, it’s imperative to remain open to new venues for networking and seeking opportunity. Senator McCain, once thought to be down for the count, is an example of someone even late in their career finding a way to stay relevant in the information age.

How Effective is Social Media In The Job Search?

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Before reading, I encourage everyone to take Vault’s Social Media Survey and let us know their own thoughts about using social networking tools in their job search.

The job search process has evolved a lot over the last few years. Back in the day, I would simply walk from store to store and ask if there were any jobs available.  The store clerk would have me fill out a form and I wouldn’t hear back from them.  As I graduated college, I started proactively sending out my resume to various companies with the hopes of turning my degree into a full-time career.  When I wanted a new job, I started submitting my resume online through various job boards and company websites.  Today, many are preaching about the values of social media in the job search, but are sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter really going to get you your next job?

When I was unemployed last year, the first thing I did was apply for jobs on LinkedIn.  My experience with LinkedIn was positive.  I posted my work experience and started soliciting recommendations from former colleagues who knew what kind of worker I was.  I felt that this was actually a better way to search for a job, as it provided potential employers with instant references, and it appeared that on LinkedIn, the more recommendations you had, the better your chances of being reviewed.  I even received an email to begin discussions about a potential job.  The conversation went nowhere, but I was satisfied with this tool.

I never thought Twitter could land me a job.  In fact, when I was bored between job searches, I would use Twitter with the thought that I just wanted to accrue as many followers as Ashton Kutcher.  Yes, this was my dream, and for some reason, I failed miserably.  But now that I am working again, I see a lot of potential in Twitter.  The fact that companies can instantly tweet jobs out to the public before they even go up on the site is exciting.  I would encourage anyone who is unemployed to monitor a Twitter feed dealing with employment and take advantage of the instant possibilities.

Facebook is not for the job search.  This is just my opinion, but I find it hard to believe that in the midst of people playing Farmville and sending out fake beer or hugs, they are conducting extensive searches and locating promising job leads.  I believe Facebook is just to let off steam, vent about life, and post 30 pictures of yourself that look exactly the same, albeit with different clothing.  However, in a weird way, it actually led to my most successful social media-based job search. While I was looking for work last year, I received an interview for a job as a press aide where the previous incumbent had resigned due to a backlash over inappropriate comments she had posted on her Facebook profile. On top of that, I applied as soon as I found out she had resigned, not even waiting for the position to be posted on a job board. That’s the kind of speed of action normally associated with social networks, and it certainly didn’t hurt my case.

Now, there are more social networks popping up that proclaim to help people find work.  But are they truly effective? Vault wants to know your thoughts and is conducting a survey about social media. It shouldn’t take much more than five minutes to complete, and as an incentive there are five year-long Gold memberships up for grabs.  Share your social media job hunt stories with us.

Tweeting Your Job Out the Window

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Remember the sheaf of papers you signed off on when you started work? Somewhere in there was your company’s official Ethics Policy. Yeah, feel the yawn coming? And that’s why nine out of 10 new hires simply sign off on that paper without given it more than a cursory glance. But today this policy may be under attack.

At an event hosted by The Conference Board last week on Business Ethics & Compliance, I heard ethics and compliance officers from different industries discuss their industry-respective takes on regulatory reform and challenges of instilling ethical behavior in the workplace. And somewhere in the middle there was suddenly a confession from one of the panelists. One that surprised me not only because of their acknowledged bafflement with it but also what followed as an honest confession of not knowing how to deal with it. They were referring to the new phenomenon called social media.

With Facebook and Twitter blurring the line between personal and private, companies have to deal with a new challenge for their ethics policies, including confidentiality, privacy policies, and reduced productivity. How much company information is it okay for someone to post on their Facebook status, if at all? Is discussing their daily work on a public forum considered a breach of confidentiality? And what if this includes a client name or a product in the making? Lawsuit written all over it?

But the No. 1 concern, according to the panel—which comprised of ethics officers from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Lincoln Financial and PepsiCo—was where to draw the line between personal and professional. One of the key speakers was Jude Curtis, the chief ethics and compliance officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who discussed his team’s efforts in putting together an official “Social Media Policy.”  Curtis also added that PwC considered their employees’ presence on social networking sites serious enough to set up a Social Media Steering Group, which is tasked with continually reviewing their policy as the field evolves.

Pepsi’s VP of Compliance, Stephen Noughton added yet another dimension to the discussion by expressing his concern: Does a potential candidate’s presence on social media deserve a place in the traditional background check? While the jury is out on this one, as a jobseeker, does that worry us? With industry experts citing social media key for your career success, I’m willing to bet yes on that one.

Finally, the last segment to this conversation:  We are all asked to sign a “Code of Conduct” at work, however, what happens when we flip this? What about the board signing an ethics policy that asks them to adhere to the triple bottom line principal when making any strategic decisions? Sound untraditional? Well, it is, but it might not be for too long as corporate social responsibility gets concretely defined across board rooms and shifts from pure advocacy quests to instrumentally changing strategic direction at corporations.

Ethics will soon have to bridge the gap from being solely an individual responsibility to a conscious common denominator in our business decisions as well. If you understand business terminology better, it’s also called sustainable capitalism.

Posted by Aman Singh Das, In Good Company

Job Search Skills: Getting Control of Your Social Media Presence

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How do you view social media as a part of the job search? Is it a positive tool for helping you track down positions and reach the people and decision-makers who really matter? Or is it a minefield to be negotiated—a realm where you have so many accounts and profiles that they’re a nightmare to keep track of, and a source of constant worry about how you’re representing yourself to potential employers?

Whatever your take on it, the folks at Wired have put together a simple-to-follow wiki that can help you get control and squeeze more value (and a lot of worry) out of your online presence. In a nutshell: it’s a guide to building a social profile through which you can link to each and every piece of the social media realm in which you already participate.

The major advantage to doing so is summed up perfectly in this excerpt from the wiki: “The deeper and more fully fleshed-out your presence is on a trusted service […] the easier it is for your friends to find you, and the harder it is for anyone to impersonate you.”

Bear in mind: it’s not only your friends that will want to find you online. Every time you apply for a job, there’s a strong chance that someone with the power to affect a hiring decision will be seeking you out in cyberspace—a chance that increases exponentially the closer you come to actually being offered a job. Bearing that in mind, perhaps it’s worth taking the time to organize and tailor exactly what those people can discover about you. Even if that doesn’t involve the sort of public profile Wired is advocating, it should definitely include an examination of your privacy settings on Facebook (especially when it comes to photos—it’s so easy to end up tagged in a picture you didn’t even know was online) and a scan (and potential removal) of any tweets or status updates that may compromise your image as the consummate professional.

Written by Phil Stott

April 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Why Social Media is Essential for Tech (and other) Careers

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When it comes to the practice of social media, much has been written about the career benefits of maintaining a public persona via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media technologies. Maintaining a public blog can be extremely beneficial in differentiating yourself from other job seekers. This is especially true in the high-tech industry.

Involvement with internal social media at large corporations can also be a critical driver for career growth in high-tech. In particular, global innovation in high-tech can be accelerated when internal social tools are commonplace and available. Here are some important tips to remember:

The Common, Corporate Backbone

Hopefully your corporation has a common social media backbone. In my corporation (EMC) we are using a tool from Jive Software known as Clearspace. This tool is a soapbox for every employee that wishes to publicly post a discussion, a blog, or a document. I’ve explained the importance of a corporate social media backbone in a previous post.

Spend some time every day on this type of site. Learn the interests of your co-workers, and find out what technology topics are hot within your corporation at large. It is OK to “lurk” initially (view without interacting), but make it your long-term goal to begin communicating with others.

Before you begin this interaction, fill out a full and complete profile of your interests and work experience. Make yourself and your expertise “findable” within the corporate backbone. If you are an expert in information security, list all the buzzwords that you are familiar with. If you write software, write down each and every language that you know. By creating your own “resume” within a social media backbone, you have taken the first step to increase your influence.

Expertise: Push It and Pull It

In order to increase your opportunities for innovative dialog with your peers, target your internal activity towards social media interactions that facilitate “innovation by adjacency”. This technique (described here) combines your expertise with adjacent technologists in order to solve a customer problem. These two spheres (expert and adjacent) collide when you “push” your expertise while “pulling” from others. This can be accomplished via the following approach:

  • Push: publish your own blogs, articles, and discussions about what you know best. For example, when I started blogging within my own corporation I wrote a blog post for every year that I’ve been working in the industry (over twenty years). These articles, when combined with my profile, put me on the map as someone that is available for collaboration.
  • Pull: As you develop the daily discipline of perusing your corporate backbone, begin following fellow employees who share a level of expertise that resonates with yours. Subscribe to their discussions and comment on them. Take note whether or not they belong to a “technical community” and begin following that community as well.

These suggestions may seem simple, but the daily discipline of practicing intentional social media inside of your corporation will open new doors for you. Why is this?

Many of the employees at large corporations have still not recognized the full value of social media. They focus intently on the task in front of them and are blissfully unaware of the collaborative, global opportunities that are a mouse click away. They also may still be operating under the assumption that social media is a frivolous, unproductive activity. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

My personal experience practicing these behaviors has resulted in spontaneous brainstorming, global friendships, new customer knowledge, and increased exposure to local university research.

Not everybody has the ability (or the time) to collaborate publicly via standard social media tools. If you work in a large corporation, however, you should find the time to collaborate internally.

-Posted by Steve Todd, EMC Distinguished Engineer. Read more of Steve’s posts on careers in the tech field on his Innovate with Influence blog on Vault.

Twitter: @SteveTodd

EMC Intrapreneur

March Madness: Harmless Distraction or Career Threat?

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AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Is there a worker in the country who doesn’t know that March Madness officially got under way today? Even if you care nothing about basketball of any kind, chances are if you work in an office someone has been round pushing a blank bracket under your nose in the last couple of weeks. And, even if you chose not to fill that bracket out—which puts you in a category that doesn’t include President Obama—the chances are many of your colleagues did, which means you’ll be hearing all about it until the tournament is over.

Opinion on whether bracket participation is a good thing or not is widely varied. While the majority of people clearly believe it to be harmless fun—with some even suggesting that it has a positive effect on company morale–there are other opinions out there. Several business papers—most notably the Wall Street Journal—have picked up a survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas that estimates “worker distraction and lost time will cost U.S. employers $1.8 billion during the first week of the tournament alone.” Of course, the Journal also notes that the folks at Challenger offer the disclaimer that their “estimate is probably about as accurate as the points spreads computed by Las Vegas bookmakers.” (While that’s supposed to add a tongue-in-cheek element, I can’t remember the last time I encountered a cash-strapped bookmaker, so clearly their points spreads can’t be all bad!)

Lost productivity is likely one of the main reasons behind the fact that around one-third of US companies have policies in place that restrict office pools and workplace gambling, according to the SHRM. And little wonder: look around many workplaces today and you’re bound to discover many cases of covert (and sometimes blatantly open) ball-watching, and many more instances of colleagues huddled around screens checking the scores from the opening games against their brackets.

While that kind of behavior may seem like harmless fun, be aware that your boss might not share your outlook: the Journal piece raises the specter that “a few employers could fire people for unauthorized Internet use, for watching the games.” Imagine trying to explain that one away at your next interview.

What’s your perspective on brackets at work? Are they a harmless distraction or something worse? Do they help morale or infuriate you when you see your colleagues using work time to keep up with sports stories. Have you ever known anyone to get into trouble for their sport-viewing habits at work? I’m keen to know the answers to all of these questions and more. Chime in via the comments section. Take our homepage poll (it’s on the bottom right), or join our Facebook discussion.

Written by Phil Stott

March 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm

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