For years social media was considered a career hindrance. Parents frequently would warn their children that what they post online today could keep them from getting a job in the future. The advice has traditionally been administered as a way of deterring social media activity, but is there a flipside to the equation?

It’s true that recruiters and employers will take a look at candidates’ social media pages before pulling the trigger on hire or promotion. However, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In this article, we take a look at all of the ways that social media can be used to a job seeker’s professional advantage.

Pro: Can Help You with Personal Branding

As companies continuously work to brand themselves from a cultural perspective, highlighting their values, they naturally look to make hires that complement the image they are trying to create. If you can build an online persona that fits what employers are looking for it may go a long way toward helping you get the job. 

Do keep in mind that it is always best to establish a persona that is authentic to you. If contradictions emerge later on, you could find yourself in hot water.

Con: There is No Gatekeeper

One of the most convenient and nefarious features of social media is that no one is standing guard saying, “Ahem—do you really think it’s wise to use the f-word that many times in one sentence that will be sent to everyone you have ever met?”

Of course, from a social aspect, it’s nice to have an unfiltered platform from which to broadcast your thoughts. But because there are virtually no restraints on most social media platforms, it is all too easy to make posts you will one day regret. 

Pro: It’s Free Marketing

If you want to give yourself a little boost in the public eye, there is no quicker, nor cheaper way to do it than social media. For the price of an email address (that’s to say, free) you can get yourself an account and start putting your good name out there. 

There are ways to spend money on social media platforms. Sponsored posts, analytic suites, etc. However, unless you plan on drifting into influencer territory, you will probably be good to go with the “out of the box,” account variety. 

Con: It’s Not as Easy as You Might Assume

Oh sure, you can fire off a social media post in a few seconds flat. But unless you are willing to put in some work your content will most likely fall on deaf ears. 

Keep in mind that there are billions of people on social media. With a “B”. They are all competing for the same attention, and social media algorithms tend to be very selective in the type of posts they reward. 

In other words, if you are just firing from the hip, you probably won’t gain any traction, even if your posts are professional. To find success you will need to do market and keyword research, timing your posts to ensure they find the right audience at the most impactful times. 

Pros: The Ball is in Your Court

If there is a positive flipside to all of this, it’s that you don’t strictly have to have a strong social media presence. Obviously, people have been developing their careers for many years without it. Everything that happens online for most career development is entirely elective. 

This gives you all the control. If you are willing to put in a bunch of work and develop a strong online presence it will help you stand out amongst your coworkers and/or fellow job applicants. However, if you aren’t the social media type, that’s ok too. Pursue the online presence that you are most comfortable with, and do so full of the faith that good work will eventually yield good results. 

Con: There are Limits to How Far This Will Take You

If you’re reading this article from your cubicle, every now and then looking up at your boss, who, despite all of our promises that social media can “boost your career” remains a middle-aged man who doesn’t know the difference between Twitter and Instagram, we feel your pain. 

The old guard hasn’t been so quick to adapt social media in their recruitment and career advancement initiatives. That can be stifling for professionals who want to use their online accounts as a way of gaining career leverage.

Try and be patient. The social media revolution is still happening, even if progress is slower in some places than it is in others. 

Social Media in Certain Professions

It’s also worth mentioning that having a strong social media presence may be a job requisite for some positions. If you want a media job, journalism, sports broadcasting, etc, having a big fan base going in can help you get jobs. 

Even in jobs where “followers,” don’t often enter into the equation, it can be useful. For example, if you are a nurse interested in breaking into the podcasting game, it will help a great deal to go in with a solid audience built in. 

And if your industry relies heavily on social media— for example, marketing, it will again be a big plus to be able to demonstrate your skills independently. 

Consistency is King

Keep in mind that none of this advice will do you any good if it is undercut with a deluge of unprofessional content. If you are going to have success using your social media for career advancement purposes you will need to treat your page almost as though it were an extension of your resume. 

Post sensibly. Keep the content as milk toast as possible, and make sure that it all fits with the persona you are trying to sell. Anything more or less can bite you in the butt in the long run.