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Avoiding the pitfalls of social media


Monday, January 20, 2014

The substantial growth in the popularity of social networking Web sites has transformed the ways in which college students work, interact and seek job opportunities upon completion of their studies. According to new data published by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, the majority of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 have embraced social media enthusiastically. However, a lack of discretion when using these Web sites could actually have an adverse effect on students' academic and career goals.

Exponential growth
Data from the report indicates that overall, the use of social media has grown significantly among American adults during the past nine years. In 2005, just 8 percent of adults in the U.S. used social networking sites, compared to 72 percent last year. In particular, microblogging site Twitter has seen substantial gains in the number of users, with growth of 10 percentage points observed among American adults between 2010 and 2013.

In addition, individuals with at least some college experience were more likely to use social media than those who did not finish high school. Approximately 67 percent of adults who did not complete high school used social networking Web sites, compared to between 72 percent and 73 percent of high school graduates, students with some college experience and those who successfully completed a higher education qualification.

Common mistakes
Social media has changed the way that many recent college graduates seek employment in their chosen fields. However, as Web sites such as Twitter have become more popular in the job search, many employers have taken to prescreening prospective candidates as part of the elimination process.

A recent infographic from online training provider Mindflash revealed that 45 percent of companies use social media to learn more about applicants. Facebook remains the most popularly searched social media site, accounting for almost 30 percent of candidate prescreening searches. Professional networking site LinkedIn was another commonly used reference tool by employers, but only 7 percent of hiring managers viewed candidates' Twitter profiles.

Perhaps the infographic's most valuable piece of information for college-bound students is that of the employers who used social media to learn more about applicants, 35 percent discovered negative content that adversely impacted their perceptions of candidates. Approximately 53 percent of this content was related to the discovery of provocative or inappropriate images or information, with an additional 44 percent concerning the consumption of alcohol or narcotics.

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