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potentially valuable contacts.

Help wanted On the other side of the interview, employers are using social media to find their next Employee of the Month. “More than ever, employers are researching candidates online,” says Jen Litwiller, director of career services at Eastern Mennonite University. “Because of this, having a positive online presence is just as important as not having ‘digital dirt.’ ” She cites a few “red flags” from CareerBuilder.com that may qualify as “dirt,” including inappropriate photos, references to alcohol and drugs, and discriminatory remarks. When Polglase asked her hiring colleagues if they check social media websites of candidates, they all said yes. In her office, they research student applicants for internships before hiring. “Checking them out on social media is an easy way to see how they represent themselves,” she says. “Our student interns are trusted members of our team and do the same work that we do, so we have to know that they will represent our office with the utmost integrity.” Positive examples, she says, are signs of involvement in organizations they’re involved in, photos of family and friends and sharing interesting, industry-relevant content. To put yourself in employers’ shoes, do an Internet search on your own full name and see what comes up, says Litwiller. “If you find digital dirt, clean it up immediately. If you’re nowhere to be found, build up your brand.”

Sell your brand Before a serious job hunt — whether it’s been 10 years since your last time applying, or just out of college— even the social media savvy might feel like a whisper in the din of billions of other social networkers: LinkedIn has 225 million users, 66 million blogs live on WordPress, and 500 million total tweeps are typing their two cents. Facebook’s 1.11 billion, then, should come as no surprise. Standing out among the rest involves having a “turf ” to stake, says Haden. “You have to think about what your brand is going to be in the first place ... and put a lot of emphasis on that.” Trying to be all things to all people negates good intentions; instead, think about the niche you hope to fill, and focus on the social network that will best suit. LinkedIn is the number one source of online recruiting, and “the best way to start building a professional online presence,” Litwiller recommends. Once you’ve formed a brand strategy and set up the platform with your own experience, qualifications and accomplishments, don’t stop thinking like a boss. Make meaningful connections out of virtual ones, Haden urges. It’s easier than ever, he says, to reach out and say “How can I help you?” via messages or emails, linking back to your online brand. “It’s not tacky to reach out to people you don’t know ... but the burden is on you to create something real out of that. The whole premise is to give long before you expect to receive,” he says. Social media has made it so easy for everyone to be their own public relations agent, Haden says. “Social media also makes it easier to prove [your worth.]”

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