Social Media: Career Killer or Career Booster?

Throughout high school, I had this negative perception of social media as a sort of guilty pleasure if you will. Undoubtedly, outlets such as Facebook and Twitter lend themselves to be easy distractions while studying.

Now in my later years of undergrad, my views on using social media have shifted; social media can facilitate career development and improve one’s job prospects after graduation, when used appropriately. I will be discussing three social networks and how they can act as “career boosters.”

Perhaps the first social network that comes to mind when thinking of career development is LinkedIn. Having a LinkedIn account can help students develop a professional image. Even if you don’t have much relevant experience to fill your profile, the ability to add “connections” (analogous to friends on Facebook) will allow you to keep in touch with any professional contacts you may make throughout your undergraduate career. You can also follow specific companies or topics that interest you and populate your LinkedIn newsfeed with relevant articles. One thread that I particularly recommend is called “Careers: Getting Started”. All articles on LinkedIn are user generated and thus should be read with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, these articles are much more beneficial than scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.

While Facebook is often known as the procrastinator’s preferred social media platform, Facebook has also proved to be quite useful throughout my undergraduate career. Most universities courses have some sort of online forum service, where in theory you can discuss the course without having to physically go to office hours. However, in my experience there are two problems with these services: they’re inconvenient to check and very little discussion actually occurs on them. Rather, Facebook groups are a much more utilized tool for discussing course content-regardless of whether the group is just a few friends or an entire tutorial section organized by the teaching assistant.

Perhaps the most surprising career-boosting social media platform is Twitter. I have never been much of a Twitter user, until I attended a workshop on how scientific researchers can use Twitter to connect with their colleagues and promote their work. It was only then that I realized how many professionals from all fields (not only science) actually use Twitter as a means of getting the latest updates in their field or sharing their opinions. Even if you don’t contribute to the conversation by tweeting, you can follow people or organizations that you’re interested in, to stay updated in a relatively efficient way.

By no means do I endorse spending hours a day checking Facebook and Twitter, but I hope you will consider the use of social media as a career development tool. Analogous to how networking is often considered one of the most important skills to further one’s career, the ability to use social networking to your advantage can also play a profound role in career development.


Photo Credit: Splitshire

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