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Employability Skills

The Employable Digital Student

Employers are increasingly turning to search engines and social networks as a form of pre-screening candidates. This means potential employers could be checking out what you are doing online and how you present yourself! Sometimes such screening is done as early as the application phase before candidates are interviewed and the vast majority of employers perform such screening post-interview and before appointment. This makes your online presence very important for your employability.
If you have inappropriate content on your social media or anything that portrays you in a negative light it can really affect your job prospects, make sure you do not fall for this trap!

Things to be aware of...

Some of the points below may seem obvious, but the issues can sometimes be quite subtle and it is easy to make a mistake. It is also important to remember that even though you may be responsible online, others may not. For this reason, monitor what contacts may write on your profiles, be careful with the content you share from other’s profiles and make sure you can trust anyone you send something sensitive to.

Over Sharing: Do you share too much online? Potential employers may be concerned you may lack discretion. Inappropriate comments about current or former colleagues, bosses and employers is always a negative. Be careful about what you share online and who you share it with.

Lies and inconsistency: Make sure you provide the same information across all the different websites you use. Inconsistency with details such as your qualifications and education may concern some employers, especially if your online profiles contradict your C.V.

Harassment or bullying of others
Anything that looks like the harassment or bullying of others is never acceptable. If any potential employers see such behaviour you will be out of the running. While this may seem obvious, you need to consider how inside jokes between your friends may looks to an outsider. If something can be misinterpreted then make sure you remove it. This includes things that you have not written but are posted onto your profile/wall. If you leave such things there, you are in effect endorsing it so be careful about what you leave there.

Poor grammar and spelling: Keep the shorthand and text speak to texts. If you are posting anything publicly, think about how it represents you. The same principle applies to any form of professional communication. If potential employers see poor spelling and grammar on your online profiles it raises questions about your language abilities

Inappropriate pictures:  Those pictures of student nights, fancy dress parties and crazy nights out are good fun while you are a student - but who has access to them? Secure access to any profiles that have such photos and ensure you need to give permission to be tagged in future posts and photos. Do you really want your future boss seeing that photo of you dressed as Super Mario? Make sure any professional profiles you have like LinkedIn; uses a sensible and smart photo.

Profane language: It may be a social environment but some employers won’t like to see the use of profane or inappropriate language. If you post such language publicly they may be concerned it will happen in the workplace too.

Alcohol references: Depending on the organisation, the occasional post about an alcoholic drink may not concern them. You need to carefully think what public image such posts portray of you. If you regularly post about drinking or heavy nights out and the hangovers to follow then you are seriously damaging your employability. Check your privacy settings and make sure you're not telling the world.

Opinions, politics and spiritual views: We all have personal viewpoints, politics and spiritual views - Just be careful who you share them with. Certain careers may require you to be careful about sharing such beliefs. Civil Servants for example must be apolitical so any posts about politics are career threatening. You should also be careful about sharing anything that could be compromising.

Sex: This is certainly something your future employer and colleagues do not need to know about. Be careful what you post on public networks and keep your private life private. You should always avoid sharing intimate pictures or videos either publically or privately. It is too easy to lose control of such media and it can be very damaging to your reputation - let alone the potential embarrassment!

Drugs: Similar to alcohol, references to drugs can negatively impact people’s perception of you. Regardless of what you think of them, most employers would not find this appropriate.

Turning your online presence into an asset

OK. So there are a lot of things to watch out for! While this can make online social media look problematic for employability, it can also be a great asset. Employers are looking for tech-savvy graduates.

Identifying your digital skills

All of the time you have spent online and on social media can be used to demonstrate your digital literacy. Digital literacy can be defined as:

The capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society (JISC 2015)

These skills are important to potential employers. For some careers you can translate your 'digital literacy' into important employability skills. This is because many small businesses, marketers and media companies are looking for graduates who are competent with social media and online technologies as these are important platforms for business and commerce. It is also essential for many customer services roles with an increasing number of businesses turning to Twitter and Facebook as their primary contact mechanism with customers. Competencies with social media can enable you to demonstrate that you know what makes a good tweet to a marketing firm or help you show that you can take a small business forward by creating their social media presence.

Identifying your experience

If you have managed the social media presence or website for a club, society, sports team or other organisation this is a great way to demonstrate your skills. It could be something your potential employer is really looking for. Even if you don’t have such experience, managing your own profile will enable you to demonstrate you have the skills to take this further.
Remember. Social media is a great way to connect with friends, but it also helps businesses connect with customers. Social media engagement is a great way to generate leads, provide customer service and gain exposure. If you show you understand this, it can be a real advantage in customer service and marketing roles.
While social media is useful, don’t forget to tick the boxes of more traditional communication tools. Writing professional emails and demonstrating competency with making and answering telephone calls is still essential for many roles. Make sure you cover these basics and demonstrate your additional competencies with social media.

See - Using Social Media for job hunting and networking