I have a school reunion coming up and, just like any normal person, I’ve used it as an excuse to conduct some light, social media stalking.
If you’re anything like me then you’re likely to have lots of connections with old acquaintances through Facebook. People are always happy (and nosey) enough to connect through this lighter-hearted medium. Its LinkedIn where the really interesting stories dwell, nestling amongst the tangled networks of cyberspace, just waiting to be found so they can reveal their strange and unusual tales.
So it’s been to LinkedIn that I have turned over the past few weeks, gently rummaging around in the career profiles of my former classmates with the aim of uncovering their professional achievements.
Some were easy to track down, having followed career paths that mirrored their interests and personalities. One friend, who had formed his own band and embraced everything musical in school was now a Radio Producer. Another, well-known for his theatrical behaviour and attention to personal grooming now runs his own hair salon. A sweet girl I went to primary school with who had a heart of gold but struggled with academics because of dyslexia now worked in care and another girl who had all the chutzpah and charm of a female James Bond now ran her own Media Promotions business. Their profiles gave enough away to let me know what they were up to.
There were a few who weren’t as easy to find having strayed away from the passions and interests pursued as teenagers. One girl, who had been sports mad all the way through school duly studied health and fitness related qualifications. Today however, she is HR Operations Director for a legal company. One of the boys had been being highly intelligent but also rebellious. He was also a self-taught pianist with amazing capabilities. He now works in finance for a large, London based pensions company.
Despite the apparent mismatch between their former lives and current careers I could understand how they had arrived at their respective destinations. Both were ambitious, goal orientated and high achievers. The girl, process driven and organised would be flourishing in HR whilst the rebel was highly analytical and good with numbers therefore well-matched to a role in finance.
Some former classmates didn’t come up in any of my searches, they simply had no LinkedIn presence at all. Paul is one of this rare and interesting breed. To the outside world he would seem like a confident and outgoing man. I happen to know he works in medical sales – a profession which requires both excellent networking and communication skills. Despite this I also know that he is a secret introvert, a person who prefers nothing more than his own company and sticking quietly to the side-lines. Another example is Vicky who I knew all the way through secondary school. She was bright, but never displayed a real zest or drive to pursue a high flying career. A trawl through LinkedIn lead to nothing, but on Facebook she is actively engaged, regularly updating her timeline with photos and stories of her family, friends and children.
Whatever their preferences, my class-mates use of LinkedIn has helped me realise just how powerful your social media presence can be, particularly when it comes to reflecting your career aspirations and enhancing your job prospects.
Take Paul and Vicki, both of whom have spurned LinkedIn but for very different reasons. In Vicki’s case, a lack of presence is unlikely to have too much of an adverse effect, she’s more focused on her family responsibilities, but for Paul it could be crucial, particularly as many of the top employers in the pharmaceutical sector are likely to be using social media as a major part of their talent attraction and resourcing strategies.
Let’s also look at my former classmates who have created LinkedIn profiles then failed to properly establish them. In my mind, those who put together weak profiles are almost more at risk professionally than those with no presence at all. What does it say to future employers if you can’t be bothered to spend time and care on your own personal marketing? There’s also the question of your general visibility. How can employers find you with just minimal details to hand? Finally, even if they do find you, how do you think you’ll stand up against the competition? Your peers will be sporting all singing, all dancing social media pages whilst the only sound emanating from yours will be the soft brush of tumbleweeds blowing across your single job title and empty profile picture.
The HR Operations Manager and the Finance Professional however, are great examples of how it should be done. Both have spot on profiles with engaging, professional photos, a broad range of good contacts within their respective industries and several recommendations. Knowing both as I do this doesn’t surprise me. Having proper LinkedIn representation would have topped their list of priorities from the start and I am willing to hedge a bet that part of their career progression to date will have been aided by the relationships they have formed because of this.
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I appreciate that not everyone gives precedence to their career, but for those that do though it’s wise to note, that unless you take some time to polish (or even create) your own personal profile, you may not find out about the perfect career opportunity. So be warned lazy networkers and secret introverts; someone out there will get your dream job if you don’t get socially active.