By Muniyra Douglas
January is the perfect time to explore new career opportunities and start fresh. For active jobseekers, this can be a tough time putting yourself out there, especially if you’ve been out of it for a while.
With the steady rise of social media platforms and online networking, it provides access to a variety of new opportunities. However, with the increase also comes the rise of scam companies who promise to offer amazing career opportunities.
In this interview, VIBE Correspondent Muniyra Douglas speaks with Bhupesh Shah, Social Media Program Co-ordinator - Seneca College. Bhupesh discusses the Social Media Program at Seneca and some tips and advice for active job seekers in the New Year, including watching out for red flags and job scams.
Muniyra: Tell us about the Social Media program at Seneca.
Bhupesh: The Social Media program is the first of its kind in North America. It’s in its sixth year. It is an 8-month intensive program that runs Fridays and Saturdays only, and it covers what we feel, based on industry input, what is lacking in the industry. We are training our students to do what the industry has asked us to do. You’ll find the courses vary from analytical to creative.
Muniyra: What tips can you provide to job seekers looking to build their online profile?
Bhupesh: The first thing that people should do if they don’t have an online identity is establish a presence. I would suggest LinkedIn is the most important one for them to use. One of the things that people tend to do is if they’re not using social media to promote themselves, they’re using social media to be social. One of the things that we tend to do when we are social is we tend to rant. We now have a website where we have a voice, so we share how we feel. The challenge is that sometimes information is taken out of context and if you’re ranting – or if you have ranted online – that’s one of the things I highly suggest people remove from their platforms. When you’re searching for someone and you’re using an online search criterion you don’t have any idea as to who that person is, but rather only what they’ve shared. So you don’t have the opportunity to explain the situation, when you may have simply had a really hard day. A lot of things could have gone wrong and the now you’re blasting someone online. And people don’t understand that. While, when you’re in person, people tend to take into consideration your body language, and you might even be able to say: “Hey, I’m really sorry about that I’ve just been having a rough day.” You can’t do that on social media and people will judge you based on the limited information they have on you.
Muniyra: Should job seekers keep separate social media profiles then?
Bhupesh: It depends on what your personal profile is like and it also depends upon the strength of your network. Some people don’t want to change their online persona. They want to be able to say: “I’m following my friends, I’ve been following them for a very long time.” In that instance I would recommend having a professional profile. But with the professional profile the content shouldn’t be just purely professional. For example, let’s say you wanted to be a broadcaster: I would expect you to share a lot of information related to the broadcasting industry. However, I would also expect you to share content about yourself. Make it personal. So as much as I’m saying, have a professional account - that account should include personal information as well. I don’t mean in the sense of a breach of privacy, but for example I have a dog, and my Twitter profile is a picture of my dog even though my online presence is Ethnicomm, which is my company. I’m positioning myself as a professional, but the content I share is also personal. That is because as much as it a professional profile, you do want to get it across that you’re a human being.
Muniyra: Would you suggest job seekers to include their social media links when it’s indicated on a job application, even if it’s not a requirement?
Bhupesh: It depends on what kind of job you’re looking for and whether having a social presence is relevant. I would say most, if not all, professional jobs you do want to include you’re LinkedIn profile. It’s a very quick way for them to assess your network and you can include more than what’s on a traditional resume. For example, there’s a section for projects you can tag the people that worked on the project with you and maybe even include the report on LinkedIn. That’s something an employer might want to see.
Muniyra: What tips do you have for small business owners or entrepreneurs that want to improve their online presence?
Bhupesh: I would say focus on one platform and get it right first. Often entrepreneurs hear things like: “You have to be on Facebook because struggling people are on [there].” And someone else might say: “If you want to attract this market you have to be on Instagram.” An entrepreneur, without having the knowledge, will delve into a number of platforms and then become unable to sustain communication. From an analogy standpoint, if you’re going to dip your toe in the water, social media is not the place. With social media you jump right in. Because if people see you in ‘the pool’ and you decide it’s too cold and jump back out, people are going to wonder ‘What happened?’ You’re not as valued as a community member when you go in and out. Once you make the commitment, you have to be in it.
Muniyra: With the rise in social media, and online job opportunities, what advice can you provide for jobseekers?
Bhupesh: First off, be careful what you share on LinkedIn. Oftentimes there is the temptation to have the most glamorous picture and you put that on your profile. Keep in mind, LinkedIn is a professional network and your images have to be as well. The most important thing is when someone contacts you for an opportunity make sure you get their information. Not just ‘What’s your name and phone number’ but you should be searching online for that company. Perhaps read a review. If someone calls you and says they have a job opportunity and wants to meet at the local coffee shop to discuss – to me, that’s a red flag. What I would do is: take that number down and call it back, at like 9 pm and see if you get a voicemail or see who is answering, and how are they answering. To protect yourself, you do want to take the time to do the research. The real indication of a sketchy job is one that is too good to be true. Especially if you’re just out of school and they’re offering you [a ton] of money and a huge responsibility, but it doesn’t make sense given your experience.
Have a safe and happy job hunt!