In an increasingly interconnected world, is it now possible to use social media to further your career? There are, after all, a lot of ways by which networking can help an individual find a better job. There’s LinkedIn, for example, which is almost like Facebook but with resumés.

It is no secret that “networking” has to be one of the best ways to further your career. Although some may think this a euphemism for nepotism, the truth is that networking is natural. How else would you find out about new opportunities other than from family and friends who already know your strengths and expertise?

So how does social media factor into this? You see, networking used to be done face-to-face, or over the phone. But by doing it that way your network is limited to people you actually know, like former classmates, colleagues, or family members.

With social media, you significantly up the ante because even real life strangers can become Internet acquaintances and even friends.

Your network has just grown exponentially.

Social Media: A Help

The Internet is very helpful in building bridges. Where in the past, your network was severely limited by real life interactions, now with social media you can connect with people all over the world. That means that searching for jobs is no longer limited to your immediate locale. Your expertise and skill set might be needed in Europe, Asia, or anywhere else in the world.

More importantly, social media lets you showcase your talents and promote yourself — often at no charge.

LinkedIn, for example, is a very good way to interact with other people within your niche. You can exchange ideas, job leads, and tips all without leaving your home.

You can include references on your LinkedIn profile from current and previous employers or clients.

And, when searching for a job, you can connect with head hunters from anywhere in the world. You can contact them and begin building a relationship with them by asking about the skills and experience required for the type of career you are pursuing. You can let them know that you are available should any opportunities arise.

Social Media: A Hindrance

On the flip side, social media can be quite a hindrance for people when they are searching for a job.

Just imagine spending several months searching for that perfect job.

You finally get a call for an interview, and you are so excited. You even have your reference letters with you from your former employers.

But 5 minutes before your interview begins the person you are about to meet with chooses to use the Internet to get to know you a bit better. After all, you should be doing the same to get to know their business a bit better so that you can ask good questions, right?

However, before you even get to shake hands the interviewer has checked you out on Facebook and Twitter.

And what did they find? A recent conversation with your buddy about how lousy your current employer is? Or, a brag session on Facebook about your latest “get-together” with your current manager’s boyfriend?

These examples are nothing new and have been happening for years. But it use to be easier to keep things discreet.

Today it is quick and easy to share both good news and bad news with the whole world via the Internet, and sometimes people are anxious to share things and perhaps forget that whatever they say on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn could potentially be seen by anyone and everyone.

Sometimes they forget to be discreet, and then they go for a job interview, and there it is – all the nasty details.

Aside from preparing for interviews, there have been several instances of employees being fired because of their behavior on social media.

As of April 2013, a study conducted by Forbes Magazine revealed that as many as 37% of employers do screen employees by running an online search. Now think back to the content on your Facebook or Twitter account. Looking in from a potential employer’s point of view, would they see something that might make them not want to hire you?

45% of employers have turned down a candidate after seeing evidence of drinking and illegal substance use on social media accounts. Though your party pictures might seem “funny” and “innocent” to you, it can easily obstruct your chances of finding a new job.

Bottom Line

Whether you are currently searching for a job, or will be in the future, always use social media to your advantage. Demonstrate your qualifications and excellent communication skills. Talk about volunteer work that you have done or side hustle work that you are doing. Highlight good references that you have received. Network in a positive way, and keep the personal stuff personal.