Employers Checking Social Media

“There is no advertisement as powerful as a positive reputation traveling fast.”
~Brian Koslow~

Nasir asks: I’ve heard that employers are checking social media more and more, to find out how professional their people really are. Should I just get rid of my Facebook profile so I don’t have to worry about my boss snooping on me?

Joel answers: That’s an option, of course, but there’s no need to stay off social media. In fact, 57% of recruiters are less likely to interview candidates who don’t have an online presence, a CareerBuilder survey found. The key is to increase your visibility wisely. Look at Facebook and other social media sites as networking tools. When that guides every choice you make on social media, you won’t have much to worry about.

Over half of employers use social media to check the profiles of their current employees, too, according to CareerBuilder, a trend that’s been growing for years. This means you need to stay vigilant regardless of your employment status!

Here are some important “dos” and “don’ts” for using social media.

Do:

  1. Do create a separate professional account.
    Your professional contacts probably won’t want to see all those videos of your new puppy. Posting a tasteful photo from your personal life here and there can humanize you, but if you go beyond that, it’s best to create a separate profile for professional use. Set up a professional Facebook account to keep your business contacts in the loop about the things they’ll really care about. Or, use your Instagram account to share family photos and personal updates—setting it so only approved followers can see them—and use Facebook for professional networking.
  2. Do set your privacy settings accordingly.
    With Facebook and many other platforms, you can choose how much the public sees of your profile. If you’re using one Facebook profile for both personal and professional networking, select privacy settings that allow only certain people to see those photos of you on vacation. If you’re setting up a separate professional account, give the public full access to your information to encourage them to “friend” or “follow” you. Similarly, consider whether you want your boss to see your LinkedIn activity. If you’re in the market for a new job, you may not want your boss to see your flurry of activity. Change your privacy settings so there’s no need to worry.
  3. Do review your existing content.
    Weed through your old photos and remove anything too racy or inappropriate on social media. Even if it’s on your personal profile, don’t take the chance that colleagues or bosses won’t see it. (What if that friend from college is your coworker one day?) Google yourself to find out what comes up—like, for instance, an old profile on a platform you no longer use, or that blog of love poetry you started as a teenager, which you could simply delete.
  4. Do select your friends wisely.
    The last thing you need after working hard to develop a professional Facebook profile is to have a goofball post something offensive on your wall. Even if you delete it, chances are someone else has seen it and the damage is done.
  5. Do review others’ posts before they go live.
    If an unprofessional post shows up, you don’t want it to hover there for weeks until you log in, so it’s the first thing any new contact sees when visiting your profile. Change your settings so you’re required to approve all posts that others make on your timeline before they go up. You can also change your settings so you’re the only one who can post on your timeline. Likewise, set your notifications so you’ll receive an email or phone alert right away if anyone tags you. Then untag yourself if you’d rather not have your contacts see the photo or post.
  6. Do show personality.
    Being professional doesn’t mean hiding your great sense of humor or witty personality—just don’t use them to make crude jokes. Branding yourself well means being authentic.

Don’t:

  1. Don’t post things you’d be embarrassed about later.
    Remember that once you post something on the Internet, it can never truly be removed. Before you post something, think, “Would I be embarrassed if my employer saw this? Would it potentially detract from my chance of getting hired or forming a relationship with a new client?” The same holds true for words as well as photos. Even if they’re on your personal profile, always err on the side of caution.
  2. Don’t complain.
    You don’t need to always be singing about sunshine and butterflies, but don’t use Facebook as a place to vent about work. Even if no single comment is over the top, a pattern of work negativity won’t make you seem like someone others want to be around—and it certainly won’t present you as confident and capable.
  3. Don’t get into Twitter feuds or feed into trolling.
    These time traps can make you look like you have major anger management issues, and they’re rarely productive. It’s fine to have a lively debate, but keep it courteous.
  4. Don’t post during work hours.
    Maybe you’ve kept it professional, posting quality content that colleagues can benefit from. But if you’ve done it during work hours, your boss or HR department might see that time stamp. Post only during lunchtime, breaks, or off-work hours so you’re not wasting time on social media at work.
  5. Don’t go overboard with advertising.
    Make your posts and status updates interesting. One of the easiest ways to lose professional “friends” on Facebook is to abuse your status updates by spamming them with advertising. As an example, instead of telling everyone you’re the best realtor in the region, give daily tips on selling a home. Use your Facebook profile to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and your followers will naturally seek you out when they have a need for your product or services.
  6. Don’t stay on too long.
    Set a time limit for social media. It may help to go on at a particular time every day, for ten minutes or so. That way, it won’t become a time suck.

Remember these pointers, and social media will serve as an important networking tool. Instead of compromising employment opportunities, it may bring you closer to your dream job or draw in clientele. And if your employer is checking out your social media habits, he’ll be nothing but impressed.

You want social media to help your career, not harm it. If perception management (and your social media image) is important to you, hire leadership coach Joel Garfinkle.

Unplug from Technology!

“Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.”
~Gretchen Rubin~

Vincent found himself obsessively scanning email when he was trying to focus on other tasks. Incoming communications were dominating his focus. Then he picked up a book on time management and realized how much time he was wasting.

Being constantly responsive to others’ questions is a huge energy drain, the author said. Most of us don’t truly multitask well, so if you’re constantly connected, you’re disrupting the task you were trying to focus on.

If, like Vincent, you’re staying too connected, consider these tips for unplugging from technology after work or even during the workday.

  1. Understand Why It’s So Tough
    To benefit from time away from tech, you need to understand why it can be hard to unplug. Sometimes we put much more weight on others’ needs than on our own. If we know an email is sitting there waiting to be addressed, we feel guilty, even if we’re doing something important.We may also get FOMO—fear of missing out. We might want to think of ourselves as superstars, being the ones to jump in and solve problems as they arise. However, the urge to save the day for others can keep them from solving problems themselves. The world can get along without you for a while—and it might be better off for it.
  2. Taking Breaks During the Workday
    Try taking mini breaks from technology during work. Leave your email behind when you go to lunch, or handle only personal communications on your breaks—nothing work-related. Better yet, read a book and ignore all electronic communication during that time.
  3. Mentally Unplug
    Unplug from certain types of communication during times you’ve committed to a particular task. Maybe you can’t leave behind technology, but unplugging mentally from email and your phone while researching an idea or writing a proposal will improve your focus. Finishing that project you’ve been wanting to dive into? Set aside an hour or two of text-free, voicemail-free, email-free time while you work. It’s too easy to get distracted by someone’s “urgent” question, or to forget to answer it later if you’ve already opened the email. If you simply don’t check email for an hour while finishing your project, you’ll be able to address it with a clear mind after that.
  4. Set Rules for Using Tech at Work and Home
    At work, set designated times for checking email and responding to voicemails. This will help you stay disciplined, making you more productive.When you leave the office, set aside all work-related communications until the next day. Period. Don’t open an email with the intent just to read it, not to respond. That will only cloud your mind with questions to stew over. You’ll come to work with renewed clarity and motivation if you allow yourself to have true downtime.
  5. Take a Tech Detox
    If you have trouble not looking at work emails while at home, it might be time for a tech detox. If you can, take a “tech fast” for a day or two over the weekend, fully unplugging from all technology. Ignore all texts, unless a real emergency pops up, and don’t even think about looking at email. Spend time with your family and friends, or on your hobbies.Check out mentally from any work-related issues. There’s no sense in mulling over a problem when you’ll come in with better ideas on Monday if you simply let your worries go. Listen to “How to Unplug at Work and Be on Vacation?” This 8-minute podcast interview was with Montreal, Canada’s #1 News Talk Radio Station.

Using these tips, Vincent was able to better structure his workday and accomplish what he set out to achieve. Once he started resisting the urge to check email every ten minutes, the urge became less powerful. At home, he enjoyed a richer family life and caught up on more reading. Best of all, his mind felt clearer, and he felt a renewed sense of purpose both at work and at home.

As an executive coach, Joel can help you unplug from technology so you actually boost your productivity and gain work-life balance.

Be Advised:
More Employers are Searching Social Media Sites!

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“You are what you share.”

~ C.W. Leadbeater ~

Client Isaac Asks: I work in the IT industry, and I’m preparing to search for a new position. I know that some companies are using Google to check out prospective employees. Should I be worried about this, and if so, what steps can I take to make sure prospective employees don’t find anything that could hurt me?

Coach Joel Answers: Employers don’t just use Google to check out job candidates, they’re relying more on social networking. In fact, a study conducted by CareerBuilder found that 37 percent of employers use social mediasites to research potential job candidates.

Information technology companies are most likely to screen candidates this way. Some 63 percent of tech companies surveyed are scouring sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace to get an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at candidates they just can’t get from interviewing or reading resumes.

So if you’re in the job market – or may be in the future – be aware of what you put out on the Internet. If it’s out there – good or bad – it’s just a mouse click away from a hiring manager.

And the results can be catastrophic. CareerBuilder’s survey revealed that 35 percent of employers found social mediacontent that caused them not to hire a candidate.

With that in mind, here are some tips:

  • Google your name to see what content is out there on the internet.
  • Check out the other major social networks to make sure you have made the impression you want to make.
  • Identify the web pages where you have posted your resume or other work-related items and make sure they are up-to-date and reflect on you positively.
  • Remove any content that reflects negatively on you. You don’t want a bad reputation online.
  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs or information top the list of red flags to employers. When in doubt, take it out.
  • Create positive content about yourself and try to get it to be as high as possible in the search results.
  • Write and submit well researched, articulate letters-to-the-editor to the top trade publications in your industry. Focus on current, relevant issues.
  • Purchase your name as a domain name and create an active website that makes the best impression possible.
  • Post articles that you write that show your expertise on free publisher websites.
  • Write comments on other blogs that show your level of intelligence, expertise and experience.
  • Create a blog and write quality content for it.

Select two of the above tips and commit to working on them this week to ensure that your online presence gives a positive impression.

Talkback: Have you ever been denied a job or promotion because of something an employer found online? Tell us about it in the comments.

Image courtesy of hh5800 / iStockphoto.com

7 Ways to Use Information as a Competitive Advantage

Buzz words in room

“The information revolution is sweeping through our economy. No company can escape its effects.”

~ Michael E. Porter ~

Client Dorothy Asks:  I work in IT.  Of course I’m surrounded by a world of information. But as you know, it’s a cut-throat business with thin margins.  How can I use our information to create a competitive advantage for us?

Coach Joel Answers: It may sometimes feel like we have information overload.  However, we may lack the right information, not know how to process it, and not understand what to do with it after we understand it.

It is essential to have information based on some specific criteria to create the best competitive advantage to you. Here are some areas to consider.

  1. Look at the trends.  First, of course, you want to examine trends in your own industry.  But you can also learn a lot by looking at factors that are influencing other industries. You may find advancement there—in technology or information processing—that you can use to gain an edge on the competition.
  2. Analyze what your competitors are doing. Do you see fast moving companies?  What’s generating that growth?  Is it something you can copy?  What do you see as their competitive edge?  How can you improve on it for your own company?
  3. Listen to your clients. One of the ways to success is to give your clients exactly what they want and need. The only way you’ll learn this is by spending time with your clients.  Don’t try to sell them stuff.  Just listen and ask questions.  You want to understand their business and their needs.
    Then get your salespeople and designers together and create solutions for their problems. This strategy will allow you to beat out your competition by turning your clients’ problems into an advantage for your company.
  4. Look for disruptive factors. The world is changing at a rapid pace.  Things we’ve done suddenly become obsolete. What technological advancements are likely to make your company obsolete if you don’t change?
    Have you insisted on in-person training for your products? Take advantage of innovative online video training. Perhaps couple it with access to coaching 24/7. Master information transfer this way, and you save travel costs and boost the efficiency of your current trainers.
  5. Avoid bias. As you take in your information, how do you adjust for bias?  Every information recorder or human processor carries his or her own bias or agenda.  You can’t eliminate it, but it helps to know it’s there so you can adjust.
  6. Process correctly. You know how quickly information changes.  So you need a method of processing the information quickly.  It needs to arrive in a useful format. You may not be able to offer the material in different ways to suit the desires of each executive.  So it may take training to help your executives understand how to process the facts they are given.
    If they don’t understand the information, its value or how to use it, you’ve lost the battle to beat out your competitors.
  7. Take Advantage.  All the knowledge and information based technology won’t help you if you don’t use it. Look for ways to improve your product. Check possibilities to create more value for your existing clients and how to expand your market to new ones. Employ innovations that step up your company in skills, prestige, and achievement.

I applaud you for not underestimating the value of information. Based on what you’ve learned, you should be able to gain and keep an advantage over your closest competitors.

If you’re looking for ways to make sense of the information you have to boost your strength against your competition, contact Joel.

Talkback: How have you used information to gain an edge over others in your field?

Image courtesy of basketman23 / Fotolia.com

Nine Ways to Stand Out From Your Competition

“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.”

~Bill Gates ~

Client Ann Asks: I worry that we are not standing out from the competition. My IT Director says that we can gain a competitive advantage through information technology, but I’m not sure how to do this. Can you give me some ideas?

Coach Joel Answers: Ann, you are right on target. It’s vital that your company outshine other similar companies in order to maintain market share. You need things that help you work smarter, faster, and at a cheaper cost. Information technology can help you do all of that.

Let’s look at nine ways to improve your bottom line, support the team effort, handle paperwork, and gain more loyal customers.

When you employ some of these IT systems, you’ll feel more in control, you’ll save time, and you’ll see results.

1. Web Presence. Help your business be easily found. Make your website inviting, informative, and easy to navigate. You’ll find you’re converting visitors to buyers faster and more often.

2. E-commerce. Expand beyond your brick-and-mortar store. A.J. Madison started as a simple store in Brooklyn New York, selling to locals. Its expansive e-commerce site now has it sending appliances into all 50 states. This is a huge competitive advantage. Make sure your IT allows different online payment methods.

3. Supply Chain Management. A good IT program can make sure you have products exactly when you need them.  It can manage your inventory as well as the clerical supplies that keep offices running.

4. Customer Relationship Management. Nothing can destroy your business faster than poor customer relations. And few things can give you a better competitive advantage than a host of loyal customers. Use information technology to help you follow up with customers, hear and respond to complaints, and segment your customers to reward larger spenders.

5. Automation Software. Your automated programs can track numbers of sales, customers, and transaction details. It can make those numbers available across a variety of documents for taxes, customer follow up, and financial accounting. Paperwork is not glamorous, but when you save hours and dollars with excellent software, it becomes cool.

6. Collaboration Software. Quality programs help teams work together. It allows documents to easily be shared. On a basic level it connects computers, applications, printers, and internet connections. These simple steps save you time and money. They also make a more productive and satisfied, team.

7. Web Design. Each company wants to stand out.  With your unique website you can differentiate your products from your competitors.

8. Client Segmentation. Don’t waste your advertising dollars on clients who won’t buy. Use software to focus on those who do. Sophisticated information systems segment your list so you can target new buyers and big spenders and spend little time on “lookers.”

9. Privacy. Use IT to protect the confidential information of your customers and employees. Nothing breaks trust with your customers like a hacker stealing their credit information from your site. That extra layer of information technology can give you a competitive edge against other businesses in your field.

Ann, you don’t even need to use every one of these programs right away.  Choose the two or three areas in your business that could most benefit from streamlining, and start there.

Soon you’ll find ways your competitive advantage is bringing in more clients and more income for your company.  Information technology really does let you work smarter, faster, and with a lower cost.

To learn how your company can blow your competition out of the water, contact Joel.

Talkback: What programs or software have you used to give your business an advantage?