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By Terry Lende, careers specialist

A recent article in the LHH corporate magazine discussed the professional pros and cons of social networks. Here's what it said:  

The use of social networks as a tool to advance and manage your career is still a relatively new concept – bringing with it disruption and opportunity. Social networking is disruptive because it requires change to old behaviours. Social networks, however, offer a significant amount of opportunity – connecting individuals who are linked by communication structures. Adoption is growing exponentially. No matter what your level, function, age or career goals, you will want to use social networks to manage your reputation, create a professional online presence, expand conversations, grow and manage networking contacts, and attract new career opportunities. Social networks will help you leverage relationships and connections between friends, peers, colleagues and the business community that can put you in touch with valuable information and career opportunities.

Phew! Pretty powerful stuff!

So what does this mean to you? A recent conversation I had with a mining executive puts it into perspective.

We were asked to put together a workshop for employees, and one of the topics requested was a segment on using social media. Why? Because, he said, "employees and prospective employees need to understand we do check an individual’s online presence and what we find can make or break future opportunities with our organization."

Top reasons for not moving forward in the hiring process include inappropriate comments posted online, information about the candidate drinking or using drugs, and bad-mouthing a previous employer.

Now more than ever, a professional online image is critical.

So let's review two of the top sites and provide some tips on how to ensure you manage your online brand to your advantage.

Would your mom approve of your online posts? 

By far the largest social media channel is Facebook, with more than one billion users. Have you posted pictures, made comments, or are you tagged in pictures that at the time seemed like a good idea but maybe not so much any more? There are multiple ways to remove or edit tags and posts. Check the help section on Facebook or do a search to find out how.

As to what to keep or remove, ask yourself what impression your online presence is making. If there could be a negative impact, remove it.

I like to recommend the 'mom' test. Would you be ok with your mom seeing it? No? Then get rid of it.

Companies now posting jobs on LinkedIn

LinkedIn, with 300 million users, is a professional networking site used by recruiters, job seekers, employers and employees. Over the years, I have seen LinkedIn become a critical tool in work search. 

Initially I saw it as networking tool – it was a great way to renew and build contacts.

Then recruiters and hiring managers started to use LinkedIn to source candidates and as part of due diligence in the hiring process. In addition, I am now seeing many companies post job opportunities on LinkedIn.

Your LinkedIn profile should be professional and business orientated. If you don’t already have a profile, create one! If you already have one, use one if the many in-house LinkedIn resources to manage your profile.

An online presence is one of many ways to manage your work search. Make sure you are using it to your advantage.

More great career tips from Terry Lende:

Terry Lende is Vice President Professional Services & Operations with global talent mobility firm Lee Hecht Harrison, providing operational leadership for career transition services in Western Canada. She is an accomplished business leader with 25 years’ experience in program development, facilitation, client relationship management, training and coaching at all organizational levels.