Personal Brands and Social Media

Original Spanish version published in America Economia (Latin America) on October 13, 2012

Who has not heard a horror story about someone who handled his or her personal image on social media carelessly? Who does not know of people who fear the social media so much that they prefer not to have anything to do with it? How many of us really feel proficient using social media? Who has quality time to spend on personal brand development? These and many other doubts and questions run through our minds when we think of social media…

And no wonder, because the topic is everywhere: we hear about its impact on hiring of personnel, on dismissals, on promotions, and on frustrated promotions…

We know now that social media has a real impact, for better or worse, on our reputation and our personal brand, as well as on our level of employability. Many professionals and executives ask us about this, no longer at a conceptual or theoretical level, but with a very practical concern: What should I do to take care of my brand on social media? How does the way I approach social media affect my employability if I am looking for work or not? How active should I be? Do I have to be present in social media if I am not looking for work, or if I have my own business? Is it true that recruiters or HR professionals search and make decisions based on what they see there? Should I take it seriously then?

We know that executives who continue to be relevant in the job market today are those who are always careful to tend to their level of employability and keep their eyes open for new opportunities, whether rising within the company where they work, or finding positions in new companies. They are also increasingly aware that jobs last only as long as the relationship works for both parties. We also know that executives who know how to manage their online personal brand and reputation as well as they manage their offline reputation have many more career opportunities.

Internationally, there are many studies about the growing importance of social media. However, we did not find a clear reference to its effect on employability in Peru. So, at Lee Hecht Harrison-DBM Peru we carried out an online study in Peru that collected data from 1,286 executives working in companies from every industry in the formal economy. These executives, whose ages ranged from 28 to 60 years old, were from nearly all seniority levels (from supervisors to general managers) and worked in various fields of expertise.

The results were unequivocal. How many of them were on social media? Of all respondents, 87 percent (92 percent in the case of women) stated that they were active in social media. When focusing the question on HR executives, we found that 100 percent actively participated in social media.

As to the job market, we found that 78 percent of respondents believed different types of social media were used to search for talent and 45 percent stated that they actually used them directly or indirectly for that purpose. And what do HR executives say? Seventy-one percent said they use social media to search for personnel, particularly for supervisors and middle-management, though they had also done so for higher-level positions. And they used them a great deal to review references about the people they intended to hire…

This confirms what we intuitively knew: being present in social media does constitute an advantage over not being in social media, particularly if you seek to keep your personal brand or professional visibility current, or want to change jobs, or are in the process of seeking outplacement in the course of a professional transition.

But do be careful; many bad references found by recruiters are due to negative ways of interacting with others or expressing oneself on social media. Involuntarily or inadvertently, some people show their worst side (or the side less in keeping with their career plan) without realizing the impact it will have on their image and their present and future work life. We should also keep in mind that everything remains etched in social media forever…

In the job market, online research is a two-way street. While one person researches the company where he or she wishes to work, employers and recruiters also research possible talent. How well or how badly we use social media may have a significant impact on our career. Regardless of whether we are seeking a new position within or outside our present company, or if we are content in our current position and not seeking a new position, the time to start actively managing our online personal brand is now.

Results of Social Networks Survey, in Spanish (View PDF )

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