Question: I've been told I need to have profiles on social media so potential employers can find me. The idea of sharing personal information scares me, and I'm not sure I'd have the time to keep it going. Do I need to be online?
Answer: Unless you have been active in social media and are comfortable with the tools, protocol, do's and don'ts, and risks, the choice to build your brand and profiles online should be given consideration. You are right to be asking the question as you look to transition from a military to civilian career.
There are obvious benefits to building a presence on social media, including:
- Employers searching for someone with your background can find you and learn more about your career, experience, personality and values.
- Colleagues with whom you've lost touch can find you and reconnect, sometimes offering access to new jobs, mentors and other opportunities.
- People who want to refer or endorse you can learn more about your skills and talents.
- Your contact information is accessible (even if just email).
- Organizations and companies who seek to hire military veterans could more easily find you and learn about your background.
There are also significant risks to being publicly accessible and visible, such as:
- As an active-duty military service member (or veteran), you could become the target of individuals or groups who seek to hurt military members.
- If not maintained and updated, your online profiles could send a poor impression of who you are and what you value.
- Careless mistakes, jokes or comments posted online have the potential to go viral or end up in the inbox of an unintended recipient.
- Without a strategy, your online profiles could look inconsistent and haphazard, sending mixed messages to viewers and contacts.
Being online correctly is a commitment. Your online presence will directly reflect your values, goals, interests and experience, as well as your personality, sense of humor, style and friendliness. Before you begin to build your online profiles, ask yourself:
- Does my previous job or the work I'm looking for preclude me from being online? For instance, if your military career was in the intelligence field or dealt with highly classified operations, and you are looking for similar work on the civilian side, having an online presence could be challenging.
- What social media platforms are my target employers using? Not all platforms are created equal -- from LinkedIn to Facebook to YouTube -- and knowing where your potential employers, colleagues and clients are makes this an important step.
- What are my goals for being online? Looking for a job and want recruiters to find you? Or looking to present another side of your personality? Seeking contacts and networking connections? Set clear goals for how and why you're investing in an online presence.
- How much time can I devote to social media? Whether you have one hour a day or one hour a week to spend managing, updating and responding to comments on your social media profiles, create a strategy for how to best use your time to create impact and results.
- How do I want to be perceived? The beauty of social media is that you can tell your story, however you'd like. The challenge of that is that many people misrepresent themselves online. Create online profiles that intentionally promote and highlight the values, offer, interests and vision of how you want to be perceived. Make sure your profiles are genuine and consistent, or the marketplace will respond negatively.
The social landscape is filled with information, humor, innovation and thought-provoking ideas. Building your online presence in the social space requires care, attention and commitment.
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