Ask to borrow a friend’s computer and Google your name. What comes up? It is likely that your Facebook profile has the top spot, and LinkedIn is quite close behind. What happens if you scroll through the second, third, perhaps even fourth page? Better yet, what happens when you click on that Facebook link? Are you proud of everything you see?
Nowadays, your online reputation matters. Whether you’re seeking employment or are already employed, it is important to be aware of what personal information is open and available to the public. Social media can be a powerful self-marketing tool. Does your Internet-self create a positive or negative image? Law students especially should be cognizant of their online presence as prospective employers are using the Internet more than ever to get to know applicants. In isolating a few of the more popular social media platforms available these days, here are ways in which they can hinder or help your chances of employment.
Almost everybody has Facebook. It is an effective way of sharing your interests with your online community. In “liking” an organization or corporation, you can influence what stories appear on your newsfeed — this can even include job ads! Will employers attempt to check your Facebook page? Probably; so put yourself in their shoes. First, and most importantly, be aware of your profile’s privacy settings and keep in mind that, from time to time, Facebook will occasionally change its security policies. (Side note: Check out the data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook. Is anything private anymore?) From there, be conscious of a few of your profile features: photos and comments. Should you care about the photos you choose to post? That is entirely your decision. Should you care about the comments you make? Again, your decision, but maybe keep your opinions coherent and insightful. Perhaps sharing and commenting on current legal issues will display the aptitude an employer would value. They are looking for the best, the brightest and the most capable; don’t let your photos or comments take you out of the competition.
Despite being limited to 140-character posts, Twitter can be very useful for a law student. If you have an interest in a particular area of law or law more broadly, you can search various organizations, news sources, people in the legal industry and law-related hashtags. It is a fast and easy way to stay current when you may not have the time to devote to the newspaper.
Even better, you can share and comment on the tweets that pique your interest and create an intelligent conversation that, in turn, may develop a helpful network.
However, like Facebook, your Twitter persona, if not carefully curated, can send a red flag to an employer. Again, take a look at the privacy settings. If you are using Twitter for professional reasons, you may wish to keep it public. If you are less interested in using this platform to establish a legal voice, it may be best to keep it among “friends.” The most important lesson when using Twitter: Think first, tweet second. Don’t let 140 characters spoil your reputation.
This may be the most obvious tool available for the law student. It is essential to have a LinkedIn profile when on the job hunt. It is a great starting point in building a professional network. Furthermore, it can be very helpful in researching prospective interviewers and employers. You can even connect with your school’s alumni; they are almost always willing to offer advice for the employment search. Be sure to take the time to create your profile, scrutinize each sentence and keep it up to date as best you can. Even better, seek recommendations from past employers that validate and highlight the skills law firms are seeking. See if your career services office can help you, too. “I’m always happy to give students feedback about how to improve their LinkedIn profiles and tips about how to research employers and opportunities on LinkedIn,” said Katie Behan, Windsor Law’s social justice career co-ordinator.
As daunting as it may be, your reputation follows you — especially the reputation that has been archived online. Most law students these days won’t remember a time when the Internet was not there to document their every move. Know what the Internet can divulge about you and take control. A carefully crafted online presence can display intelligence, initiative and, most importantly, authenticity. The legal job market is incredibly competitive; law students should wield social media to their advantage.