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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsThanks to social media, we're better connected than ever before. Our information spreads instantly, and we've got more videos of cats than you can shake a laser pointer at. We use it to share just about every aspect of our lives, and that can be useful. But do remember that all those Facebook posts, tweets, photos and videos, they end up scattered all over the internet, and they can usually be traced back to you. This is sometimes called your digital footprint, and how it represents you can have an effect on your employability. It's becoming common for employers to use social media to screen applicants, and many of them will reject you if you give a bad impression.

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 seconds But actually, they're just as likely to hire you if they see something they like. So don't let your digital footprint stamp out your chance of a job. Follow these five steps, and you'll be on your way to social media success. Step 1. Linkedin is incredibly useful. Set up a professional profile and build a network of connections. You can join groups for insider knowledge, and when you're ready, you can even use it to search for jobs. And while you're at it, why not check out the countless other social networks out there. There may even be one especially for your chosen industry. Step 2. Keep an eye on your security settings. Social networks, especially Facebook, change their privacy and security settings regularly.

Skip to 1 minute and 18 seconds So make sure you're not about to share those photos from last night's pub crawl with your future boss. Also remember that just because you made your post private, it doesn't actually mean it will stay that way. Social media is about sharing, and before you know it, your comments could end up visible to anyone, so do think before you post. Try searching for yourself online once in a while, and just make sure that nothing inappropriate shows up. At the same time though, make sure there's something for employers to actually see. Achievements and relevant interests look really good, so don't be afraid to show off.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds Make a few public posts now and again, and show the employers why you're the right candidate for them. Step 3. Make sure you're involved in the conversation. If you've got your heart set on a particular industry, then you really need to be liking, sharing, following, commenting and retweeting those who are already working in it. This will show that you're really interested. And it also helps to keep you up to date and build connections with people and even open up opportunities. Step 4. Make yourself easy to find. As well as having public content on social networks, why not start a blog and write about a subject that you're passionate about?

Skip to 2 minutes and 20 seconds Show off how much you've learned through your studies and write about your achievements and popular topics. It's a really great way to build your web presence. And Step 5. Social media changes all the time, so try to keep up to date with what's going on. You'll find plenty of updates on news websites and technology blogs. So what are you waiting for? Get online and get networking.

Improve your digital footprint

Social media offers great opportunities to develop your employability and many employers are now using it to find new recruits. Social media could play an important role in helping you find a job, therefore it’s essential you know how to use it to your advantage.

In addition to having a more traditional CV, you can also develop a professional profile online, which demonstrates your skills and experiences to potential recruiters. Linkedin, dubbed ‘Facebook for professionals’, is one of the more common ways to do this, but there are lots of others such as Twitter, Behance, Blogging, Google+ or Facebook. Some countries like China offer popular alternatives such as Sina Weibo (the equivalent to Twitter) or Renren (similar to Facebook).

At the end of last week we suggested that you type your name into Google to see what comes up. What did you find? Was there anything there that surprised or worried you? What kind of impression do you think your current online presence would give to a potential employer or University admissions tutor?

Here are some things to consider:

  • Is your online profile accurate and up-to-date?
  • What are your privacy settings?
  • What do you ‘like’ and who do you follow on social media? What groups are you a member of? What does this say about you?
  • What photographs exist of you online? What’s your profile picture like? What impression might others form of you?
  • What interests have you highlighted? What impression does this give?
  • What comments or opinions do you share via social media?
  • What do you and your friends say about each other?
  • What skills, competencies and experiences do you share online? Do you ‘showcase’ your talents?
  • Who are you connected to professionally via social media? (e.g. employers, professional groups, individuals who work in the sort of job that interests you, job agencies, career experts, etc.)

This video is from the free online course:

How to Succeed at: Writing Applications

The University of Sheffield