Published: 28 May 2014

Social media: Friend or foe for students?

social media

Medical student Imran Ali has been exploring the positives and pitfalls of social media for students:

“Social media provides a great platform for students to communicate and express themselves, but do the risks outweigh the rewards?

Neck-nominations, no make-up selfies and hash-tagging. Yes, it is clear that we as students are now living in a new social age. For most of us, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are tools for keeping in touch with friends, sharing memories or simply procrastinating to avoid starting that dreaded pile of overdue work sat on our desks! But for all of the social freedom these sites provide, one thing is for sure; freedom comes with a huge responsibility.

The reality of the situation is that these sites are much more than what they appear on face value. Yes, they can provide entertainment and be a lot of fun (I myself don’t deny chuckling at the odd tweet I’ve read now and again) but they also have the potential to either make or break your prospective future career.

Used well, it can allow you to branch out and keep up to date with the top industry leaders or company owners you aspire to work for. Sharing interesting blogs and joining groups on sites like LinkedIn will help you to pave your way and display a proactive approach to your future career. It can also help you to build bridges by flaunting your creative thoughts and ideas and by getting in touch with employers. However, when we consider that it is ourselves we are showcasing, it becomes clear that we must be cautious as to exactly how much we expose…

Employers take the image portrayed by students on social media extremely seriously. For them, it is an indicator and reflection of your personal character. Many of us are impervious to a night out now and again and the inevitable horror that ensues when waking up to see some of the less than flattering photos you have been unwittingly tagged in! But the question we must ask ourselves is how would we feel if prospective employers were also viewing these photos? Well, the question is not a hypothetical one, because in many cases they are.

In the current economic climate where job opportunities are often limited, it is more than likely that you will find yourself competing with two, three or maybe even more graduates for a position. It is also highly possible that your academic achievements and experience will be very similar. So how do companies differentiate between seemingly indifferent candidates? Some will try to get a better idea about you by viewing your social media accounts. This means it is vital to give a good account of yourself. You don’t want to appear to be the party animal when other candidates may have a hundred well-regarded professionals in the field following them on Twitter, or countless blogs giving an insight into key issues relating to their area of career interest.

Here are some tips for using social media to your advantage and avoiding the mistakes some students make:

Six top tips for using social media for students

1. Don’t leave your account logged in! Students are infamous for inappropriate posts or ‘frapes’. Keep yourself protected.

2. Manage your privacy settings wisely, if there are pictures you don’t wish employers to see, make sure they are securely hidden.

3. Show you are engaged and interested in your chosen field. Follow the leaders of your industry on Twitter and LinkedIn, join groups on Facebook and write blogs and share your thoughts on the key issues that matter to you.

4. Remember to be wary of the boundaries between personal and professional and what can be interpreted as offensive or distasteful. Bear this in mind when sharing your opinions.

5. Not only must you be careful of your own posts but be cautious of which groups you are a member of, who you are following and how that may come across.

6. Don’t post while drinking, it’s never a good idea!

So it is clear that if used correctly, these sites not only provide a great way of keeping in touch with friends and entertaining ourselves, but can also help to propel you into landing that future job you desire.

Just remember to always keep your wits about you and regularly check your social media sites to ensure nothing sinister goes under the radar. Make sure you familiarize yourself with your profile and be prepared to answer questions from employers regarding your social media page too. Stick to these principals and you will undoubtedly be able to get the most out of social media both in your personal and future professional life. Good luck!”

By Imran Ali

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