Students in college face a myriad of challenges that were nowhere in sight ten, twenty, thirty years ago, many of which have the potential to make or break their future success. One big challenge for young adults is knowing the difference between what is beneficial and what is inappropriate to post on their online profiles, as well as who they should be sharing this information with.

While many students know that sharing explicit or controversial material online may inhibit their success with future employers, choosing to share nothing at all may not be advantageous either. In fact, social media can do a great deal to influence a student’s job search, as it can be an excellent mode of professional networking.

Social networking is just one more opportunity for those new to the job market to make connections and showcase their talents and skills to potential employers. In her book, 100% Job Search Success, Second Edition, Amy Solomon, M.S., O.T.R. offers a list of ideas on how to network professionally online. We’ve shared the suggestions below:

  • Complete your online profile completely. This may sound redundant, but the more information you provide contacts, the greater likelihood you’ll get noticed. 
  • Consider all your life experiences. Even if you have never held down a “real” full-time job, think of all the circumstances that count as work experience. This could be anything from participating in youth organizations (think Boy/Girl Scouts), to volunteering, to summer jobs, or even to babysitting. Life experiences count and you will need to rely upon those skills when you start your career.
  • The personal touch. Take the time to personalize your connection requests with a quick (one or two line) note, and perhaps a reminder of your connection (mutual friend or members of the same organization, for example).
  • Some things don’t change. As with traditional networking, supporting others in your network is equally as important as forging your own path. Networking—whether traditional or social—is a two-way street of connecting and supporting each other.
  • Get in the habit. We watch the local and national news to find out the latest information. Make sure that your profile reflects “current events” in your professional life. It is recommended that you update your profile at least once a week. 
  • Know thy audience. Professional social networking sites can give insight into the background and interests of the people you are going to meet, whether in an interview or at a networking event. Take advantage of such information.
  • Just step away from the Internet. No matter how technologically advanced we are, there is nothing like real human contact. It is the cornerstone of traditional networking, and with good reason. A “virtual handshake” will never replace a real one. Learn to mesh the best of both networking techniques. (81)

Reference: Solomon, M.S., O.T.R., Amy; Gwenn Wilson, MA; Lori Tyler, MS; Terry Tyler, PhD. 2012. 100% Job Search Success, 2nd EditionBoston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

What tips do you have for students looking to set up a professional online presence? Share your ideas below .