Students can use networking sites to their advantage

Augusta State University freshman Miguel Morell first signed up for the popular social networking Web site Facebook to keep in touch with friends.

His reasons for using Facebook, however, have evolved. As he sat in the Jaguar Student Activities Center, the 18-year-old computer engineering major said he now uses it to network with others who have similar career interests.

For good and for bad, potential employers are using social networking Web sites also.

Facebook began as an online arena for college students to keep up to date on each other, but the site has developed into a place for employers to keep tabs on job applicants, said Melissa Hudson, assistant director of the Augusta State career center.

That's why ASU held the first of a series of workshops Thursday to guide students in how to use Facebook and other sites to their advantage.

"I don't put any stupid stuff on there," Mr. Morell said of the potential risk.

Once it's on the Internet, it's permanent, Ms. Hudson said. Some Web sites specialize in archiving information, and allow visitors to view sites as they were published on various dates.

ASU career adviser Amanda Boland said 20 percent of managers use networking sites to learn about job applicants, citing statistics from CareerBuilder.com.

And a third decided not to hire an applicant based on information they found, including references to drugs and alcohol, inappropriate pictures and poor communication skills.

Speaking with businesses in the Augusta area, she has found this to be true locally.

In 2006, three Richmond County deputies were disciplined for their MySpace profiles.

Freshman Danielle Candy, 19, took a break from class Thursday to check her Facebook profile. She compared Facebook to clothing.

"It's kind of like what you wear in public," she said. "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."

Ms. Candy said important people look at Facebook now and so she knows to keep her profile appropriate.

Social networking sites, for example, are fair game for anyone applying to work at the White House under President-Elect Obama's administration, Ms. Boland said.

Although Facebook and similar sites can contain pitfalls for job-seekers, they can also prove quite beneficial, Ms. Hudson said.

The sites, especially business networking sites, enable job-seekers to find employers and vice versa, she said. Sites can also be used to bolster a person's resume.

Online advice

- Be careful because nothing online is private.
- Be discreet by setting your site to private and blocking comments.
- Be prepared to check your site regularly for comments posted on it and to respond to any criticism of your social networking sites.

Source: CareerBuilder.com