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How social media can affect your job search

By Laura Vanderkam, Real Simple
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue October 9, 2012
Don't let an unprofessional online identity interfere with a successful job hunt.
Don't let an unprofessional online identity interfere with a successful job hunt.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Photos and social media posts with risque themes can stymie a job search
  • Cleaning up your Facebook and Twitter feeds could attract potential employers
  • Maintain a professional online presence, especially if you want to work on the Web
  • Don't announce a new job on social media until your new boss says it's OK

(Real Simple) -- At a friend's wedding, you danced with a beer in hand and pictures were taken. No big deal, right?

Right—unless the photo is seen online by a potential employer who thinks you look frivolous. "Your first impression isn't made with a firm handshake—it's with a Google search," says Dan Schawbel, the author of "Me 2.0."

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A recent survey confirms this: A whopping 70 percent of U.S. business managers say they decided not to hire a job candidate based upon something found out about her online.

So it's crucial to keep your virtual self, well, virtuous. Here's how.

Clean up your pages
Social-media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, appear high in search results, so opt for the highest privacy settings on these networks. Also, "remove complaints about your job or boss, any confidential work information, and photos of yourself acting in a way that could be construed as inappropriate," says Lindsey Pollak, a global spokesperson for LinkedIn, a networking website. Do the same for any photo-sharing services you use.

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If an unflattering photo appears on someone else's page, ask her to remove it. (Alas, she doesn't have to comply.) If it's pornographic, it's a good idea to alert the authorities.

Maintain a good (online) reputation
"If you're nowhere to be found on Google, employers may question whether you have kept up with the latest trends or are qualified for a job that requires minimal digital skills," says Dorie Clark, a blogger for Harvard Business Review.

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If you're looking for a job as an interior designer, for example, start a blog on your favorite home decor. Employers will be impressed by your initiative, says Pollak. (Wordpress and Blogger offer free services.)

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Keep job news offline
Got an offer? Great. But don't announce it on Facebook until you clear it with your employer-to-be, says Pollak. People have been fired after posting online about their employment without the sanction of the new boss, experts say. Stick with spreading your good fortune in person.

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