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Barely a week passes without some unfortunate person losing their job due to a foolish Facebook post or terrible tweet. The most recent infamous example saw a teen lose a job she had not even commenced working at due to a poorly thought-out tweet. Her future employer-to-be saw the tweet and quickly used Twitter to publicly “un-hire” her. Other examples are easy to find – as a ten minute search on Google quickly demonstrates.

Employers have been using Facebook (and other social media) for years to pre-screen job applicants. This is well known and yet many job-hunters refuse to lock down their personal profiles or even refrain from using social media during a job search.

Like many aspects of technology, social media is an extremely sharp double-edged sword that offers great potential benefits, but also hidden risks. In an earlier column we looked at how our computer can be a powerful job search tool, but also an incredible time-waster. However, there is no ignoring the computer in our job search – we have to master it – and social media is quickly becoming the same. Many employers use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to recruit workers and to ignore this reality is to tune out opportunities. Furthermore, social media use can demonstrate to a prospective employer that our tech skills are up to date, that we are open to learning new skills and are aware of the importance of cultivating a brand. Social media also allows you to connect with people in your field and broaden your network. A company’s Facebook page, blog or Twitter feed are all valuable resources for research.

This is part of the reality that the modern-day job-hunter faces. In the past it was enough to have a good resume, a letter of reference and a solid network. For some people that may still work, but most of us will have to learn the intricacies of social media whether we want to or not. If you are not yet using social media consider learning one platform at a time and incorporating it into your efforts. Camosun College offers regular, free social media meet-ups. The public library has many books on the subject and the Web has plenty of tutorials, courses and free resources. The learning opportunities are numerous and inexpensive or free. If you are currently using Twitter, Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn etc. in your job search take a fresh look at your profiles from the perspective of an employer. Vow to eliminate any pictures or content that can be misinterpreted or that might place you in a bad light.

Social media is a big, new complicated world and we owe it to ourselves to map it out and mold it to our purposes.