Establish your presence on the web

Shannon Laur

As college students, we all know how to use the Internet and social media sites to communicate with friends, but some Kent State professors are teaching students how it can help with their careers after college. Their message: The Internet can be a vital tool to network with professionals.

“The first thing that I like to get people to recognize is that social media breaks down the degrees of separation,” said Bill Sledzik, associate professor for the school of journalism and mass communication. “There has been some research that, online, there [are] only four degrees of separation between you and anyone else on the earth, rather than six without the Internet.”

The ability to connect with professionals over the Internet makes it easier than ever to create a good first impression and put yourself ahead of the game in the job search.

Sledzik suggested following prospective employers’ social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even Pinterest.

“Twitter and LinkedIn have shown they have staying power,” Sledzik said. “Is Pinterest going to matter? Well, if I am trying to target someone I am going to do some research and see if that person uses Pinterest, and I can find ways to see what we have in common and how we can connect.”

Sledzik recommended creating a brand for yourself on social media sites. He said it is all about staying authentic and showing who you are in a safe way. He suggested taking risks like communicating with professionals and showing who you are, without hurting your reputation.

Michele Ewing, associate professor for the school of journalism and mass communication, also stressed the importance of creating an online brand. She encouraged students to stay consistent with their brands on all sites including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or blogs.

“You need to think through how to gain experience and how do I show I have that experience,” Ewing said.“Before you even think about the tools to use to show your online presence, think about who you are and what is your brand. Then start gaining experience to strengthen your brand.”

Ewing said engaging with authorities through social media opens doors for young professionals. She said the next step after establishing who you are and your online presence, or your brand, is to do some research on what kind of professionals are working in the area. She said the Internet and social media sites are a good way to build contacts.

Sledzik and Ewing both agreed that although there are positive aspects about selling your brand and image on social media websites, there are some negatives.

“Employers check your social media footprint,” Sledzik said. “If you’re smart and you’ve done it right, they can’t get into your Facebook page. But, they can see what you’ve posted on blogs, they can see what you’ve tweeted, but social media is all about being authentic. People can connect to you, the real you.”

Sledzik said he generally encourages people to “reserve Facebook for the people you really know.” He said to remember what you put on a website like Facebook is what you are telling the world about you. He pointed out something as simple as a profile picture on Facebook can really show who you are, and not necessarily in a positive way.

“For most people, I can see their profile picture,” Sledzik said. “Most people on Facebook leave something you can see. They don’t hide everything, and a profile picture can speak volumes.”

Ewing agreed with Sledzik and said she believes Facebook is more for personal use. Think about how your Facebook profile may reflect on you as an employee before adding a future employer. Ewing said to remember who you are friends with on Facebook, and what they may be adding about you. She said to position yourself on Facebook, and all social media sites, in a positive light.

Ewing said if you have messed up in the past on social media sites, whether it is posting inappropriate pictures or comments, you can clean it up.

“If you’ve made some mistakes, clean it up,” Ewing said. “Be prepared for questions during an interview. My best advice to anyone is to tell the truth and own up to it. Recognize you’ve made a mistake, and in hindsight it probably wasn’t the most intelligent decision you’ve made.”

Contact Shannon Laur at [email protected].