Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Managing Your Digital Dirt

Digital dirt is the information you put out on the Internet -- your hobbies, your photos, your rants and raves. Digital dirt can also include inflated academic achievements, radical political views, off-color jokes or YouTube videos. Some extreme examples include negative comments about neighbors or former employers. Anything you post on Social Media is potentially open for the entire cosmos to read. Privacy settings are not fool proof, so don’t be naive. You want to use Social Media responsibly.

What you might not realize is that your “digital dirt” can also affect your job search efforts. Today’s recruiters use Social Media to find, source and connect with talented candidates. WGU Career & Professional Development can help turn your digital dirt into digital gold. Employers use Social Media to screen applicants and there are plenty of cases where some Facebook profiles, blogs, and postings can derail job prospects even before an interview is considered. I've had recruiters tell me that certain job offers have been revoked due to a closer look at the candidate’s Facebook and Twitter activity.  Find out how you can enhance your profile so that you can avoid this from happening to you?

The safest and quickest way to put your best Facebook forward is to clean up your profile and your entire account, if necessary. Remove any questionable materials, sayings, comments, etc. “Repurpose” your Facebook and Twitter accounts to look, read and feel more professional. This can make the difference between getting a job offer or being passed over.

Stay in control. You can choose who can post comments or tag you in photos. Stay tuned in to your account and scrub any salacious comments or racy pictures that make it to your account. Unfortunately, you could be buried in digital dirt due to “guilt by association”.

Google Thyself. This is also commonly known as “narcisurfing”. Search for yourself on the web and see what comes up. You can also set up Google alerts from the Google dashboard to see if your name comes up in any searches. If there are any unflattering pictures of you they can be either removed from your Flickr or Instagram account or you can adjust your privacy settings to help filter them out. If you do nothing, eventually the content will drop off or get pushed “down further” in the results in favor of other competing content. But, it would just take longer.

Another way to reduce the visibility of any negative or questionable content is to create positive content which will affect Search Engine Optimization ratings (SEO). SEO is based on keywords and phrases used in internet searches. Posting and publishing positive SEO information about yourself “pushes” the other, negative, content further and further down in the search results. You can also re-write your personal profiles on sites like Facebook and Twitter which carry more SEO power.

As I mentioned before, your online profile and results from SEO searches like Google can affect your job prospects. Brand-yourself, the online reputation company, says that 75% of HR departments are required to Google applicants. So, you better look good online! They also claim that 85% of hiring managers make a decision to advance your application or not based on your Google results. We can help!  Contact WGU’s Career & Professional Development Center to find out more!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Informational Interviews

By now we have all heard that networking is the key to a successful job search – “it is not what you know but who you know.” Informational interviewing is a powerful (and underutilized) networking tool that can jump-start your career. Review the 5 W’s and the How of informational interviewing and schedule your own informational interview today!

An informational interview is an interview in which the goal is to gather facts and opinions from someone with expertise and experience in a specific field or position. It is important to remember that an informational interview is NOT a job interview. They are investigative opportunities for you to derive information about a job, company, industry, career space or person. They are led by you as the interviewer.

An informational interviews allow you to:
  • Explore your career options and clarify your goals 
  • Learn more about an organization, their needs and the requirements for a particular job 
  • Network with decision-makers and expand your professional network 
  • Generate job leads 
  • Build confidence in yourself, your job search process and your interview skills
  • Demonstrate professionalism, initiative and motivation to a prospective employer by  taking control of your job search by interviewing an employer before you even apply a job! 
Identify with whom you want to interview or what industry, company, or specific position you are interested in learning more about. Once you have an idea of with whom you want to talk to ask family, friends, coworkers, students, alumni, and others in your immediate network if they know of anyone they can put you in touch with. Don’t forget to connect with people on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and other social networking sites (remember there are WGU groups on LinkedIn and Facebook).

There is no time like the present.  Informational interviews are helpful to conduct during career exploration or to utilize as a networking tool during your job search.

Meeting at the interviewee’s work place is more convenient for your interviewee and can also give you a better feel for the job and organization.  However, over the phone or via video conference are other methods to consider, especially if you are conducting the informational interview long distance.

Send a brief email to the person you want to interview explaining your background, career goals, interests and what you hope to gain from the interview. Make sure you state clearly that you are just seeking information – not a job. Request a 20-30 minute appointment .

Prepare for your informational interview as you would for a job interview. Research the person you will be interviewing, their profession and their company. This advanced research shows the interviewee that you are professional and that you respect their time. It also allows you to focus on acquiring information that is not readily available through websites and company brochures.

Prepare questions to ask ahead of time and consider bringing a current copy of your resume with you. However, only share your resume if the person you are interviewing has expressed interest in seeing your resume!

Show up to your appointment professionally dressed and on time. End the interview by thanking the interviewee for their time and asking if there are other people they suggest you talk to. This is a great way to grow your professional network.

Send a thank you note within 24 hours of your interview thanking the person for their time and briefly describing what you learned from the interview. See if your interviewee is on LinkedIn and invite them to join your network. In addition, send periodic updates on your career progress and be sure to let them know if you apply for a position with their company.

Visit the WGU Career & Professional Development website for more information on informational interviews or contact us for individual assistance.