Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How to Use Social Media to Benefit Your Career

Carleton's Women in Science and Engineering's November guest speaker event last night was about How to Use Social Media to Benefit Your Career. With a general theme of "just do it," our guest speaker Natasha D'Souza of VirtualEyeSee explained how to get our names out on the social web, and why we should care.

After a brief introduction to some of the technologies out there (RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc..), the discussion turned to tagging. The basic gist of it is that if you tag your content, other people are more likely to be able to find it. That's a good thing, whether you want your company to be more visible or you want potential employers to be able to find you. The trick is to come up with some standard tags agreed upon by a certain group of people. For example, we might want to start tagging everything relevant to CU-WISE with cuwise.

Next comes social bookmarking, which includes sites like Delicious, reddit, and Digg. It can even include things like the Posted Items section of your Facebook profile. Here, we get to use tagging again, sharing and finding content relevant to our interests. Many web sites have social bookmarking shortcuts to encourage users to spread their content (when you notice a quick link to share on, say, Facebook, you somehow are more likely to actually do it).

Wikipedia was an interesting topic to me. Natasha said that she knows of people who have failed job interviews because of their answer to how many Wikipedia articles they've written! As Canadians, we have a real opportunity to contribute, because many of our companies' and institutions' pages are somewhat sub-par. The reason this one intrigued me is that I feel the community may be its own worst enemy in some ways; by flagging so many articles with all the things that are wrong about them (citation needed! tone is inappropriate!), many people might assume they don't have the expertise to contribute. Natasha's response is that this is a childish reaction and that we should just do it; I don't mind this for myself, but I do think it's a genuine roadblock in general.

Blogs can really help you find your voice online. If you have the dedication to keep a blog going but don't know what to write about, simply ask yourself what you are passionate about. Set yourself a goal, pick a time of day, and just do it! Writing on blogs has the advantage of being linked to easily, being indexed and searchable, and to provide automatic updates via RSS.

So why would you want to do all this? Doesn't it just suck up all your spare time?

Well, you have to decide for yourself how much you want to put out there and how much time to spend on it, but providing content puts you in control of your image. Whether they do it properly or not, HR people are Googling potential employers to get a sense of who they are beyond the job requirements. Do you want photos from that last party to be the first hit they find?

By contributing to group discussions, answering questions, writing content for Wikipedia, and so on, you are showing that you are part of a community, can problem solve, and are generally interested in what you do. You show that you understand the new social landscape is about sharing, not about me-me-me. How could this not impress?


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