Teenagers and Digital Tracks on the Web: Career Tool or Boomerang?

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Young people are increasingly using social networks like Facebook or Twitter. And they leave traces there in the form of postings, comments, photos, videos. Can this later become a problem when looking for a job?

Teenagers and Digital Tracks on the Web: Career Tool or Boomerang? Teenagers and Digital Tracks on the Web: Career Tool or Boomerang?

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.


Personnel search specifically in the net?


What many young Internet users do not think about: when searching for a job and applying later, they could be fatal, because HR managers are now making targeted use of the Internet to find out more about applicants.

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But that's also the reason to think in good time about how to use the Internet specifically for his career planning.

Traces in the WEB - career tool or boomerang?


98 percent of all 12 to 19 year-olds regularly use the Internet. And at least 85 percent of them are rarely active in social networks, 72 percent daily or several times a week. The most popular with 42 percent is the "SchülerVZ", but the 18-19 year-olds prefer the "StudiVZ". It is followed in the popularity scale "who-knows-who", localists "," MySpace "," Kwick "and MeinVZ. This is shown by the current study "Youth, Information, (Multi) Media" (short JIM), which the Media Education Research Association Southwest has been conducting annually since 1998.

And it also shows how unobtrusive the young people on the Internet deal with personal data and information. About 80 Percent of Internet users have posted information about their likes or hobbies. Also your own eMailAddress is visible on the Internet at more than 35 percent. And more than two-thirds have uploaded photos or films online. Particularly precarious: 54 percent of respondents have this data unprotected and accessible to all Internet users, stand on the net.

Nobody knows who reads this


That's a problem because nobody knows who's accessing this information - and what it does with it. This can have serious consequences: for example, 42 percent of Internet users say that videos or photos portraying them themselves have already been posted online without their consent. A quarter reported that it was already in the circle of friends to trouble due to Internet entries. It has happened to 14 Percent that false or offensive has been disseminated on the Internet. Up to now, a quarter of internet users have come into contact with cyberbullying. Every third girl and every second boy can tell that someone from the circle of friends has already been finished on the Internet.

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But even data that you do not make public, but only releases his friends, are not sure of discovery. Because, as numerous cases in the past show, the online networks are by no means protected against hacker attacks. This was demonstrated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology in a study. And the researchers also showed: Actually, it also manages to get every normal user to data and photos, which the user actually thought safe locked.

Years later, problems can arise


Even years later, youthful sins on the Internet can lead to problems that many still do not even think about today. Because, of course, potential employers have long since discovered the Internet as a source of information: according to a study by the job board Careerbuilder, 22 percent already use the internet to obtain information. Not only are they checking the qualifications they have given, the candidate has badly talked about former employers, or has a criminal record: 41 percent of employers are looking for targeted information on alcohol and drug use, and another 40 percent are looking for discrediting photos.

Because the old data in the network are usually preserved. Even those who delete their profile in online networks probably have not eliminated all forum entries, links and photos. With special face recognition software even photos can be assigned, if they do not carry a name. And in archives like Wayback.com, experienced people can also find ancient data. So in terms of career, it's best not to do anything with social networking activities?

Continue to be active in social networks


Thorsten zu Jacobsmühlen, who advises companies on recruitment on the Web 2.0 and regularly blogs about the topic, disagrees:

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"Even in the age of Web 2.0, the personal CV, the appearance, the knowledge and, if available, the experience have to convince. But the internet offers excellent opportunities for job hunting and career planning. But you should know how to use it to your advantage and what you should avoid as far as possible. This has become so important that in England, for example, elementary schoolchildren are trying to communicate with social media. "

Above all, there are more and more search services available to employers, which provide more and more detailed search results about applicants: These are first of all search engines like Google or special blog search engines like Technocrati, with which long-forgotten entries in forums or ancient blog comments can still be traced. In addition, there are special personal search engines such as 123People or Yasni, which unite all information about a person clearly on one page. Search services like Spokeo make it possible to search not only all social networks all the way to Twitter, but also video and photo services like Youtube and Flickr. And with zabasearch, public documents such as birth dates and even convictions can be unearthed in the US - a trend that sooner or later will also affect Germany.

Carry out positive reputation management


"Anyone who thinks he can banish the danger by holding back creates another, much bigger problem: He does not give the opportunity to attract positive attention and thereby convince potential employers of his good reputation on the internet , "

explains to Jacobmühlen and makes it clear that employers are not about discrediting anyone:

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"Above all, employers want to find out how applicants behave on the Web. An applicant who blasphemes about classmates, teachers, or classmates might do so through colleagues or the boss. No company wants to risk that, because you have to put a lot of value on your own corporate reputation! "

For these reasons, in the meantime, in the context of the application process, nearly all companies would screen applicants who would be on the selection list. And not just in top positions, but even potential trainees. It is no longer an industry apart from this:

"Many people think the Internet only plays a role in applications in the IT or media industry in communication professions or executive suites. But meanwhile, even medium-sized craft businesses are looking for their web-vita in the selection of their apprentices. "

Info Box: What to look for to protect your online reputation?


  • No ostrich policy: Avoid the "ostrich policy". Anyone who does nothing against a negative online reputation and does not communicate leaves the field to others and misses the opportunity to put themselves in the right light.
  • Acting in time: Whoever becomes active only when he notices that unpleasant content is circulating on the net, it is too late, because image cultivation must first be laboriously built up.
  • If you want to delete unwelcome data: If you discover unwelcome information about yourself on other websites, you can ask the operator for deletion. However, you usually do not have a legal handle.
  • Assign service providers: If the image problem takes over and you can no longer handle it, so-called reputation defenders, professional service providers, help further.
  • Awareness raising: Anyone who is active on the Internet, should remember at each of his steps that this can still be read in years. This is less complicated and annoying than you think, because after some time it becomes a matter of course to think ahead.

Gain experience on the internet


Johannes Lenz from the recruitment consultancy AlmaMater, which specializes in graduates, also finds it important to try things on the internet and gain experience that will be useful on the future career path:

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"Even in everyday working life, the new social media such as Facebook, Xing or Twitter are becoming increasingly important. It's an advantage to be familiar with this at the start of your career and to keep developing your skills. "

But of course the Internet also brings dangers, explains Lenz, who is responsible for the areas of online editorial and online marketing at Alma Mater. According to Lenz, adolescents in particular would have to resist the temptation to focus too much on their own through a broad reach because that could have negative consequences. It is therefore important to use the Internet in a targeted manner and deal responsibly with your own data and set limits from the outset on how much you want to reveal:

"You should think carefully about who you want to achieve with its content - otherwise it is precisely the wrong people. The more openly I handle my data, the more dangerous it is. For example, if you only want to get in contact with your friends, you should make sure that you can only selectively release data on the network. You should also hide his profile for search engines. "

Use social networks specifically for your career


Who wants to use social networks specifically for his career, has various options to do so: for example, by attracting attention with forum posts, comments or your own blog on a specific topic. In addition, you can present yourself on platforms such as Linkedin or Xing, which are designed specifically for the career, with his previous experience. But even in networks such as Facebook or studiVZ, which are geared rather to the private exchange, you can do a lot for your career: For example, the profiles here also offer the possibility to include photos, links, slideshows or entire application videos.

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Because especially in connection with image, sound and video, the Web 2.0 offers many more options than the mere application on paper or per eMail: You can present yourself, for example, in different jobs or life situations and thus show his previous experience - of course, in addition to the traditional curriculum vitae. In this way, future employers can get a complete picture of the personality of an applicant. One can also score with videos or slideshows because this application form has not yet become standard. However, the prerequisite is that it is really professional.

All in all, it is important to spread desirable information in different online profiles and then network it, as Johannes Lenz emphasizes. In this way, potential employers who google for an applicant would especially notice the positive information. Anyone can control what those are by regularly googling for his own name. It is important that the observer is as unified as possible, as Lenz explains:

"The different profiles should contain the same information as possible via networking. For example, if you specify special interests or internships in a profile, you should ensure that this is also visible in all other profiles. It is also important that you act in all activities authentic and serious - especially for example when choosing the online name. Targeted connectivity and authenticity increase the likelihood of attracting attention in Web 2.0. "

Positive in the social network


Positive in the net to attract attention - that's exactly what Sabrina Panknin has succeeded in: The press officer of the social media service provider Ethority has found her dream job through the Twitter community. After studying cultural studies in the "classical" PR area, Panknin also dealt with the possibilities of the Web 2.0. Therefore, she knew that more and more companies and thus potential employers used the possibilities of social networks. And that's exactly what she wanted to use for a career change.

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"First, I polished up my profile in the Xing business network so that the CV is meaningful and up-to-date. Also, I have a current, professional photo set. "

tells Sabrina Panknin. The success was not long in coming: it received two requests from HR experts. Since nothing came of it, however, Panknin decided to become active himself - via Twitter. Among other things, she began to write brief reports on the topic of PR and social media in order to draw attention to her specialist skills. She also posted a job application and noted in her short biography that she is looking for a job. These activities fell Dr. Benedikt Köhler, Digital Director Strategy and Research of ethority, on:

"He contacted me via my XING profile linked to Twitter, I sent my application documents in the classic way, was then invited to the job interview - and got the job,"

reports Panknin, whose success is explained simply by the fact that she has carefully considered for what purpose she uses which network: The business network Xing, for example, uses her professionally. For private contacts, on the other hand, she has Facebook, where she is primarily networked with friends and colleagues. At studiVZ, on the other hand, she herself was never active, but she nevertheless gained experience with the network:

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"I once asked to take out a party photo of myself there. Most people are very accommodating when asked to do so. Because unfortunately, some photos, if taken out of context, can give a negative impression - even if the original situation was completely harmless. "

This is how career planning goes on the net


The example of Sabrina Panknin shows how important it is in 2.0 career planning not to passively create an online profile and then wait for a job offer. Rather, it's about becoming active - even in unusual ways: The microblogging service Twitter, for example, was originally intended for the exchange of private short messages with up to 140 character length. Meanwhile, there are numerous large companies that use Twitter for marketing and recruitment. Even its own job search engine for Twitter, jobtweet.de already exists and it even works on the Iphone. The benefits of Twitter are obvious to Sabrina Panknin:

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"You look at his tweets and can read from them a piece of personality - unlike, for example, XING, where only one can find only a prepared CV."

But for all online activities, it's also important to keep an eye on what employers are looking for when they're looking for applicants or wanting to shed light on them. Personnel and employers have long since not limited themselves to typing the name into the search engine and seeing what comes out, but are also looking specifically for information in social networks.

Jan Kirchner and Alexander Fedossov have specialized with their recruitment consultancy atenta in the search for IT and executives for the technically-oriented middle class in Hamburg - a niche area in which they have no choice but to search specifically in online networks for candidates as Jan Kirchner tells:

"For highly specialized professionals, we look around the Internet in industry forums, making hollow recommendations and then targeting people through social networks. So if you are well versed in a specific area of ​​expertise, you are well advised to join the Internet at an early stage in appropriate groups. "

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According to Kirchner, especially the so-called business networks are particularly suitable for personnel search. The user profiles at Xing, for example, usually contain detailed information on training, career, experience, interests and similar characteristics of the person and can be searched or found using different search methods. In this way, the two headhunters can quickly determine if someone fits in the desired position purely technically. But also in more private networks like Facebook, Kirchner and Fedossov have already found something - even if not all profiles are publicly available here.

"If we were already on the track of a specific person whose name and occupation we had found, for example, by searching in a web forum or a professional network, we were able to provide not only personal information but also information about the occupational activity, educational institutions visited, Find educational qualifications and professional interests that allow good conclusions as to whether the candidate was suitable or not. "

So Kirchner and Fedossov put together for themselves the profile of a candidate from different mosaic stones in the entire network. As Kirchner explains, small details always make up the overall picture. It is true that the technical qualifications, education and work experience are the decisive factor for or against a candidate. Especially with wobbly candidates, however, sports, hobbies and social commitment are also looked at, as the personnel consultant makes clear:

"How we look at a candidate, of course, depends on the network: in a business network are very different standards than in a private network. But here, too, of course, the normal rules of behavior and courtesy are in demand. Mischievous remarks, for example, throw any applicant out of the race immediately! "

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Since the sound often makes the music, Kirchner and Fedossov also use weblogs as a means of searching for applicants: on the one hand, they specifically search for bloggers with certain professions. On the other hand, they also search for thematically relevant articles to find out about them Article to approach interesting people.

"Especially blog posts can be learned a lot about the authors. For an attentive reader, such articles provide insightful clues to the mindset, language, and educational background of the author or author! "

explains Kirchner and has two final tips for anyone who wants to use the Web 2.0 specifically for their future career:

"If you want to be positive, do not just register in some networks and then see what happens. Rather, he has to get in touch with others, discuss them, and thus highlight his competencies and personality! But: Always think about what you post! "

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