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

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

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherConsultant and head of the Institute's job pictures Yourweb.


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.

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

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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.

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?

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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:

“Even in the age of Web 2.0, the personal CV, appearance, knowledge and, if available, experience must ultimately convince. But the internet offers excellent opportunities for job search and career planning. But you should know how to use it to your advantage and what you should avoid if possible. This has become so important that people in England, for example, are already trying to teach elementary school students how to use 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

“If you think you can avoid the danger by holding back, you are creating another, much bigger problem: You are doing without the opportunity to draw positive attention to yourself and thereby convince potential employers of your good reputation online , ”

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

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“Above all, employers want to know how applicants behave on the web. An applicant who blasphemes in networks about classmates, teachers or fellow students may also do so about colleagues or the boss. No company wants to risk that because you have to put a lot of emphasis on your own company 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 believe that the Internet only plays a role for applications in the IT or media industry in communication professions or executive offices. But meanwhile even medium-sized craft businesses are looking for their web vita when choosing their apprentices. ”

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

  • No ostrich policy: Avoid the “ostrich policy”. If you do nothing against a negative online reputation and do not communicate, you leave the field to others and miss the opportunity to put yourself 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:

“The new social media such as Facebook, Xing or Twitter are becoming increasingly important. It is therefore an advantage if you are familiar with it when you start your career and continue to develop your skills. "

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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 reach with your content - otherwise they are the wrong people. The more openly I handle my data, the more dangerous it is. For example, if you only want to get in touch with your friends, you should make sure that you can only release data in a targeted manner on the network. You should also hide your profile from search engines. ”

Use social networks specifically for your career

If you want to use social networks specifically for your career, you have various options: For example, by drawing attention to yourself with forum posts, comments or your own blog on a specific topic. In addition, you can present your previous experience on platforms such as LinkedIn or Xing, which are specially designed for careers. But also in networks like Facebook or studiVZ, which are more geared towards private exchanges, you can do a lot for your career: For example, the profiles here also offer the option of including photos, links, slideshows or entire application videos.

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:

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“The different profiles should contain the same information if possible through networking. For example, anyone who specifies special interests or internships in a profile should ensure that this is also visible in all other profiles. It is also important that you appear authentic and serious in all activities - especially when choosing your online name, for example. Targeted networking and authenticity increase the likelihood of attracting positive attention in Web 2.0. ”

Positive in the social network

Sabrina Panknin succeeded in attracting positive attention online: the press spokeswoman for the social media service provider Ethority found her dream job on the Twitter community. After studying cultural studies in the “classic” PR area, Panknin also worked on the possibilities of Web 2.0. Therefore, she knew that more and more companies, and thus potential employers, were taking advantage of the opportunities offered by social networks. And that's exactly what she wanted to use for a professional change.

“I first polished up my profile in the Xing business network so that the resume there is meaningful and up to date. I also posted a current, professional photo. ”

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 on Twitter, I sent my application documents in the traditional way, was then invited to an interview - and got the job,”

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reports Panknin, whose success can be explained quite simply by the fact that she deliberately considered which network she uses for what purpose: she uses the Xing business network, for example, purely for work. For private contacts, however, she has Facebookwhere she is primarily networked with friends and colleagues. At studiVZ, however, she was never active herself, but she still gained experience with the network:

“I once asked to take a party photo of me there. Most people react very well 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:

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

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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 specialists, we look around in industry forums on the Internet, make hollow recommendations and then address people specifically via social networks. So if you are well-versed in a special field, it is good to participate in appropriate groups online at an early stage. ”

According to Kirchner, so-called business networks are particularly suitable for the search for personnel. The user profiles on Xing, for example, usually contain detailed information on education, career, experience, interests and similar characteristic features of the respective person and can be searched or located using various search methods. In this way, the two headhunters can determine very quickly whether someone technically fits into the desired position. But also in more private networks like Facebook Kirchner and Fedossov have already found what they are looking for - even if not all profiles are publicly accessible here.

“If we were already on the track of a specific person whose name and professional activity we had found, for example, by searching in a web forum or a professional network, we were able to provide information on the professional activity, educational institutions visited, in addition to personal information on some user profiles. Find educational qualifications and professionally motivated interests that allow good conclusions to be drawn 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:

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“How we view a candidate depends, of course, on the network: the standards in a business network are very different from those in a private network. But here too, of course, the normal rules of conduct and courtesy are required. Nasty comments, for example, immediately throw every applicant out of the race! ”

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.

“You can find out a lot about the authors, especially through blog posts. Such articles give an attentive reader insightful clues to the author's way of thinking, expression and educational background! ”

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 stand out positively, you can't just register in any network and then see what happens. Rather, he has to get in touch with others, discuss and thus highlight his skills and personality! But: always think in advance what you post! ”

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