With a new president who uses heavily at least one mode of social media, this might be a good time to address something that impacts employers, managers and, very definitely, employees.

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Most people see social media as a means of connecting to other people and communicating, often outside their immediate circle. Especially in the business world, this can be both an advantage and lead to problems.

LinkedIn is an especially great boost for networking and job-related communications. Facebook offers similar advantages, but it’s recreational use can limit those advantages and even cause problems. But all social media should be used with some caution since the record is essentially permanent.

None of this is new, but I’m still surprised how many act as if their online posts and communications are sealed off from the work and professional world. It’s not, and each year someone finds that out the hard way.

Social media is a way of cultivating and projecting an image that highlights skills and benefits for a prospective employer. For the employer, seeking applicants who follow those guidelines can help find good candidates and expedite the selection process.

This is especially difficult for both parties if the issue involves past termination. But past terminations need not be a dead end for future jobs or, for the employer, future hiring.

For job seekers, it’s never appropriate to mention that you were laid off or that you are currently not employed. There is no need to broadcast that information. When people say they are looking for a job, the impression is that they are hurting or depressed. For most people, what we do is who we are. If we are unemployed, then we are nobody. People always go toward the negative when they hear that another is unemployed.

The fact that you are “in-between positions, should only come out, if at all, after you have an offer and discussions about start dates and notice periods occur. Use social media to work for, not against, you.

Employers should look for those who promote themselves in a positive and strong manner. If you learn that the person you are considering was terminated, know that it may have been a good thing for both the applicant and the previous employer. It may simply have been a bad match in a number of ways that do not reflect on the applicant’s ability to work well within your company. You’ve gotten this far with the applicant for a reason. Don’t automatically assume the applicant will make a poor employee. Try to find the cause behind the termination and see if it is relevant to the position or your company’s culture.

When the economy really starts to turn around, those who will benefit from the new jobs will, I predict, be the ones that already have jobs. It is human nature to seek something or someone that is already possessed by someone else. It is unfortunate, but I think true, that the unemployed will be second in line for the new jobs. Those still employed will be perceived as the best employees because they survived the massive layoffs of the recession or depression.

This is yet another reason for the unemployed to use social media to highlight their abilities and not their past. Meet with the prospective employer so those past experiences can be discussed in person and to avoid falling victim to social media assumptions. Once you’re in the door, focus on what you can do for the company.

For you employers out there, don’t miss out on a potentially good match for your company if you find someone has been terminated. Use social media to identify potential employees that show themselves to be strong and qualified, and then be aware that if you find they have indeed been terminated, it ‘s not necessarily a bad thing. If you believe the applicant can deliver value and make your company money, it might just override elements in their past.

About the Author

Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC

Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., C.M.C., is the president of Labor Management Advisory Group and HR Solutions: On-Call, and the author of Mess Management: Lessons From a Corporate Hit Man.

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