Architecture Careers In The Social Media Era
When I interviewed the firms for, 7 Questions Answered By The World’s Top Architecture Firms On What They Look For In Job Applications, there was a common theme. One point that came up repeatedly was the use of social media as a means of acquiring new hires.
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Even one of the top firms in the world, Zaha Hadid Architect's, uses LinkedIn to advertise for open positions.
So does having your spring break photos plastered all over the internet help with the job search? Just in case you don't know the answer let me help you. No, it does not.
We are currently in a transition period between analog applications and digital profiles. People tend to be confused on where the line is on what should and shouldn't be shared online.
This confusion is leading to a lot of missed job opportunities. Perhaps worst of all, you may not even realize that what is showing up on page two of your Google search is holding you back.
So with this in mind, what about the opposite scenario: completely avoid social media.
Does staying off the grid seem increasingly impossible? Could you potentially be doing yourself a disservice by not putting yourself online?
According to a Careerbuilder survey:
"Avoiding a professional online presence may be hurting your chances of finding a new job. More than one third of employers (35 percent) say they are less likely to interview job candidates if they are unable to find information about that person online."
The first thing many hiring managers do when they receive an application is to Google the candidate.
In the same Careerbuilder survey mentioned above they found that, "fifty-two percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates"
What will someone see if they do an online search for you? If there’s nothing there, you don't exist in today’s workplace.
Amazingly, only 19 percent of hiring managers at small companies say they even look at résumés. Your web presence is just as important, if not more than your resume and portfolio.
So what is the right thing to do?
You may be thinking, "I know! I will keep my private life and work life separate!"
Unfortunately, the days of separating our personal and private lives are all but gone.
To be or not to be [on social media]
So if we can't be on social media and we can't NOT be on social media what are we supposed to do?
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review touched on this issue. How to Separate the Personal and Professional on Social Media
In this article they discuss a few different strategies for your social media profile: Audience, Custom and Content.
They define these as:
Careful to keep their professional and personal networks separate. For instance, an unreserved Facebook poster might learn to deflect friend requests from co-workers and professional contacts and direct them instead to a LinkedIn account.
Accepting [all] requests and resigning oneself to posting only carefully considered content. People who use this strategy post information and photos that project an image of professionalism, or at least do not undercut the reputation they are trying to earn with their boss, coworkers, and clients.
Social media users manage both their audience and their content. We also found people doing this on Facebook by creating two lists, one personal and another professional, and posting different content to these lists. Thus they safeguard their professional reputations while still maintaining an honest and lively Facebook identity.
As much as we may want to separate the two, in today's hyper-connected environment it just isn't possible.
For example, if you tried the audience strategy and a co-worker adds you as a friend you now have to deny their request. What if you have a friend who decides to join your office? Do you now have to cut them out of your social circle?
For these reasons you have to carefully consider all of your posts, tweets and comments. I believe the only realistic approach above is the "content strategy".
Think first, tweet second
This story from 2013, How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life, shows how just one inappropriate tweet can spiral out of control. While this may be an extreme example, it highlights the importance of maintaining a professional online persona.
All online profiles have to be professional
Yes, I know you are an architect or architecture student and you are an artist. I am not saying you can't be creative. There is a difference between being creative and being naive to what others can see.
In many ways it is sad that we are now unable to freely express ourselves without risking our future. However, at this point it seems to be the only way to reduce the chance of damaging your reputation.
Notice I didn't say it will "guarantee" you will be safe. Anything you write or say could be taken out of context and potentially used against you.
This is certainly a complicated issue. Many factors come into play based on your own preferences on privacy and networking.
So what does all of this mean in the context an architecture career?
The architecture community is relatively small. There is a lot of potential for spreading your great reputation, unfortunately a bad reputation can spread just as fast.
All of this is especially true for architecture students and the generation that has grown up with Facebook and Twitter. Things that may have been funny in high school or college can come back to haunt you in the job search.
While I have mainly covered the negative aspects of being online, it can be used to your advantage. I typically don't recommend online portfolios as there isn't an opportunity to customize your content for a position. However, having a sample of your work out there (with contact information) can help get you noticed by potential employers.
At a minimum I recommend architects and aspiring architects have a LinkedIn profile. You don't have to fill out every single project you have ever worked on but a brief work history can be beneficial.
LinkedIn is a much better option than Facebook or Twitter for connecting with other architecture professionals. Joining the LinkedIn groups can help you keep informed on the latest architecture career news and positions.
Sleep on it
Think carefully before posting on a forum, sending a Tweet or engaging in a Reddit debate. These things will be around forever, so make it something worth reading. Something that will actually HELP your career.
Ironically as someone who writes on the topics of architecture careers I need to be conscious of my own online presence. My articles have been read by hundreds of thousands of people.
Putting yourself out there can generate a lot of attention, especially during a time when everyone has a voice.
Maintaining a professional profile not only includes what I write but also what others choose to write about me. This can be an intimidating experience, knowing I have little control over others' opinions. However, that is the risk we all now take when we choose to put our lives online.
What is your strategy when it comes to social media and your professional life? Feel free to explain your strategy in the comments below. Anonymously of course...
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Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C
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