Social media for law students (and everyone else)

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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Social media tools allow everyone, not just information technology aficionados, to create and maintain their online professional persona. They have become key tools as online research has become ubiquitous. Using Google to look up potential new hires is something that many in the tech industry have been doing for years (I’ve been examining potential new hires online for almost 10 years, as have many people in the IT world). Now that managers in all industries are doing this, applicants outside of IT need to manage their professional online image.

Previously, online searches would turn up newsgroup postings, bulletin board commentary, personal Web sites, mailing list postings, and so on. As Facebook and newer forms of “social media” grew, the potential information grew both in scope (to include more personal information especially) as well as breadth (to include people who were not necessarily in the IT field). Clearly, exercising care in what personal and non-professional information one posts (drunken Facebook pictures are the canonical example) remains important, but effective job-seekers and networkers today should go farther and proactively take charge of their professional online life.

LinkedIn is a prime service for creating, maintaining, and sharing professional information. It opens up your professional background to potential hiring managers, as well as clients and colleagues. It is key now that Googling applicants has become routine. Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog echoes this sentiment in Law school students using LinkedIn : It’s a no brainer:

As a hiring employer, I look at someone’s LinkedIn profile before anything else. I then run various Google searches to get a feel for a candidate’s background. Talking to other employers, I’m finding I’m pretty typical. So if you’re a law student without a complete and growing LinkedIn profile, you’re missing the boat.

Google, obviously, will turn up more than LinkedIn profiles. But LinkedIn provides a very effective method of presenting your professional face to the world, and can help you present the information about yourself that you want to present, as you wish to present it. This can help you guard against mistaken identify problems (confusing you with someone with the same name who has not been careful on MySpace, for example), or even old information that really is about you, but that does not reflect your current professional persona.

To make effective use of LinkedIn, Kevin O’Keefe suggests that you:

  • Make sure your profile is complete.
  • Connect with people you know.
  • Get recommendations.
  • Join appropriate groups.

He also suggests you do old-fashioned networking, with or without the help of LinkedIn, and make use of other social media tools like Twitter. To this, I suggest that if you consider blogging, too, as another method of displaying your analytic and writing talent.

What was once the domain only of information technology professionals has opened up to everyone through easy-to-use social media tools like LinkedIn (or lesser-known services like Plaxo and Wink). Given their easy of use and effectiveness, all law students—and everyone else in the job market today—should take advantage of them.

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