Turning Facebook into a career-booster

Andrea Correale, president of Elegant Affairs, an off-premises

Andrea Correale, president of Elegant Affairs, an off-premises catering and event design company, uses her Facebook page to promote her business. (June 27, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

For people seeking jobs and business connections, a Facebook profile can be the last thing they want a prospective employer to see.

Not so for Nathan Sukonik, 20, a college student from Long Beach.

At networking events, the Hofstra University entrepreneurship major passes out business cards displaying cover photos from his Facebook account, and even a link to it.

Sukonik says Facebook is "a great tool" for marketing himself and his fledgling company, CollegeStartup.org, which holds events for entrepreneurially minded young professionals. "I try to keep it less personal and more professional."

Facebook has undermined many job hunters and workers when employers have come across less-than-professional posts and photos in their profiles. Reports that some employers required job candidates to yield access to their Facebook accounts led to proposed federal legislation, sponsored in part by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), banning such requests as conditions of employment.

But some workers and job hunters are finding ways to use Facebook as an asset for their careers.

Paige Carbone, a career and life coach who recently served as internship consultant at Stony Brook University, used to advise students to "keep your Facebook clean." But in a spring workshop she taught them to use Facebook and other social media to project their "personal brands," that is, their professional image, in ways that can lead to jobs and other opportunities.

Right now, job seekers need all the help they can get. Long Island still hasn't fully recovered from the Great Recession. The unemployment rate on the Island rose sharply in May to 7.4 percent, from 6.7 percent a year earlier, as the Island couldn't absorb a surge in job seekers.

Intrusive or not, employers want to read your Facebook profile. And a study involving 56 employed college students, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, found that just five- to 10-minute reviews of their Facebook profiles led "raters" to make better predictions of students' job performance than a formal personality survey the students took.

Consider, then, the impression you would make if employers "came to your Facebook page and found daily posts with articles and discussion topics that were directly related to your industry, and intelligent discourse in the comments," says Daniel Asulin, 26, a Merrick social media consultant who says his own use of the site is mostly personal.

Among the ways you can use Facebook to get a professional boost:

Time line

Last fall the site reconfigured users' profiles, shifting from a list of most recent status updates to the "Timeline," giving a year-by-year rundown of select comments and highlights. You can supplement the Timeline retroactively or in real time with life events related, yes, to diets, dating and new digs, but also to new jobs, schooling and achievements, giving the feel of a social/digital resume.

Subscriptions

Facebook now allows people to "subscribe" to your public posts without being your "friend." This feature allows your Timeline to function much like a professional blog, says Andrea Correale, founder and president of Elegant Affairs, a catering and events business that she's run for 18 years.

Her Facebook sharing shows how Correale, of Glen Cove, is "completely passionate and in love with food and entertainment." Her posts are "always about food, not selling," but they have brought her media attention, speaking opportunities and personal relationships that she estimates have led to as much as 20 percent of her revenue.

Cover photo

Your photo stretching across the top of your Timeline is prime real estate for a professionally appealing graphic. Carbone says that might be an action image of a person, say, accepting an award. But there's certainly also room, she says, for an appropriate nonwork-related image that speaks to some interest or value, such as running in a marathon.

Privacy

Of course, just one badly timed glitch could eliminate any hard-won professional points, which is why it's essential to become familiar with Facebook's privacy settings. For instance, the Timeline feature could have resuscitated some long-forgotten and embarrassing post, so check out the "limit audience for past posts" option. A friend could "tag" you -- mention your name publicly -- in connection with a less-than-flattering post or photo, so check out the setting called "control what happens when friends tag you."

Fresh eyes

It's also a good idea to Google yourself occasionally, without logging into Facebook. This allows you to view your account as an employer or other business contact would. In your earlier days on Facebook, you may have "liked" certain people, places, movies, books -- things that no longer reflect who you are or how you want to be known in the professional world.

Job apps

Job hunters are also turning to Facebook apps such as BranchOut, Glassdoor's Inside Connections and Monster's BeKnown, which offer LinkedIn-type features, such as highlighting suggested job postings and showing which friends are connected to employers of interest. But be sure to set the apps' account settings in Facebook to tailor who sees -- and, more importantly, does not see -- your activity when using the apps.

Business cards

Like Sukonik, you can create mini-versions of the image you choose to stretch across the top of the Timeline as business cards at MOO.com, which prints packs of 50 cards. (At the moment, the first 50 are free.)

Sukonik says the cards "show I'm social media aware, understand myself as a professional and can share info about my background readily."

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