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Home Jobseeker Using social media to advance your security career
Using social media to advance your security career

Using social media to advance your security career

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Love it or hate it, over the last 2 decades, social media, in all of its forms, has become a part of everyday life. From the days of “Friends Reunited” and “MySpace” to the current plethora of platforms, one thing is undeniable: we share huge amounts of personal data, intentionally or otherwise, with the world.

This information sharing can have disastrous consequences for your career, or paint you in a highly positive light.

It is a fact that employers increasingly look at candidate’s social media footprints, especially for more senior roles, but it has become a lot more than that.

Social media can also be used to create your own personal “brand” and project and highlight your attributes, achievements, and professional image. You can also form hugely valuable professional networks of industry contacts, regardless of whether you have ever met these people in real life or not. You just need to display ideas, views and opinions that align you with those you wish to connect with. There are ways and means to do this and none of this should take more than 30 minutes out of your average day, but will pay massive professional dividends in the future.

Before we look at how to sell yourself, there are a few universal habits to avoid:

  • NEVER swear or use bad language in a tweet or post. Regardless of your motivation or annoyance. Any reader will view it as a lack of suitable vocabulary and, rightly or wrongly, perceive you as less intelligent.
  • NEVER try to connect or ‘friend’ anyone because you like a profile picture. Well, unless you’re on a dating site. It doesn’t matter how hot you think Ms Dawson, the CEO of a large multinational company, is, or how much of a stud Mr Davies, the publisher of the planet’s most popular security industry magazine, is, business professionals don’t network based on physical attraction. Comment on how great someone looks in their LinkedIn profile, and you will be lambasted into a black hole in space, rightly so!
  • NEVER spout “extreme” views. Think whatever you like, even share, within your circle of friends in PRIVATE. We don’t, yet anyway, live in a country where your thoughts are monitored, however, publicly express any “unpopular” views, or worst of all, any open dislike or criticism of any race, colour, religion, sect, or creed, and you open the gates of Hades.

Be warned, 10,000 posts about your charity work or featuring lovely fluffy puppies will count for nothing, after just one, ill thought out tweet.

NEVER post after a few drinks! Even if you are trying to make a decent and valid point, the more you have consumed, the sillier you will sound. Even if you think you are fine. Just don’t. Bottom line: Don’t post on social media if you wouldn’t drive a car.

• If you find somebody’s views offensive or are particularly annoyed by an individual, simply “Muting” or “Blocking” that person is far easier and less stressful than engaging. You need to appreciate that sometimes, bothering to argue with someone who is very clearly extremely misguided, is just a waste of time and energy.

But now for the good news. You can do many easy things to boost your profile and get noticed by the RIGHT people on the main social media platforms. Here are our Top Tips:

LinkedIn is THE network for professionals. It provides not only opportunities to expand your network of contacts but also has a huge range of informative posts and articles to increase your security industry knowledge base. Want to get the best from this network? Here’s our advice:

  • Size may not be everything, but when it comes to your professional network, a larger circle of contacts tends to lend credibility, so grow your network… for years, LinkedIn stated that you were only supposed to connect with those you had met in the real world. Seeing how restrictive this had become, this was abandoned a few years ago for a more sensible approach.
  • Join groups that you have a genuine professional interest in. Follow security industry leaders. Follow the top and most highly-rated companies. You may find the ACS Pacesetters list helpful. Follow those you want to hear the opinion of. Search for people that do what you do, in the country you work in, and follow those that do security jobs you aspire to.
  • Before long, you will find that many of the people you have followed will follow you back as long as you have a great profile. Use a decent head and shoulders photo. It doesn’t have to be professional, but it shouldn’t have 20 drunk mates in the background, taken whilst on a beano in Magaluf. The profile should be upbeat and positive.
  • Highlight your achievements. BE HONEST, but remember that this isn’t your CV, so feel free to leave out jobs or experiences that don’t you any favours or support the professional image you’d like to portray.
  • You will also find that up to mid-management roles, recruiters generally value experience, skills, and achievements over qualifications, so highlight everything relevant, and don’t worry too much about the GCSE in Biology.
  • Ask former colleagues or bosses for recommendations, but remember to always reciprocate. If you are, for example, a professional security supervisor, looking at advancement to management, a recommendation from your boss in the chip shop you worked in during the summer of 2002 isn’t going to fit with the brand you are creating for yourself, regardless of how great you were at battering haddock. A few quality and appropriate recommendations from decent sources are better than many that have no real relation to your career path.
  • “Like” and “Share” posts and articles you are impressed by or found useful. Especially those of some of the bigger LinkedIn players within the security industry. This gets your name out there in the right circles as does make positive and intelligent comments on the posts and articles you found interesting, entertaining, or informative. Just please don’t comment for the sake of it.
  • A few honest and thoughtful responses to the posts of others will be far better received than dozens and dozens of “I agree” or “How true” comments.
  • If you have read an article of particular interest to you, feel free to thank the poster and offer any positive feedback, if you are qualified.
  • It probably isn’t wise to point out that the Global Head of Cyber Security for a large multinational company, missed something vital in a long piece if you are still a security officer at a warehouse unless you are 100% certain of your knowledge. In which case, go for it. But be super polite! Impress them. Do not annoy them. If in doubt, just don’t touch the keyboard!
  • And finally: Unless you are a film star, or in a witness protection program, DO NOT set your preferences to block contact requests “unless they know your email address”! LinkedIn is not a huge cauldron of spam and phishing attempts, so you will gain little in security terms, but you will miss connecting with recruiters and professionals who can help you, and it’s annoying, so just don’t.

Basic psychology states that people tend to like the people who openly like them, so make supportive and encouraging comments on your peers’ posts, and you will rapidly find these people commenting on, liking, and sharing your work.

Twitter (Or “X” as it seems to be these days.) is still THE news and views platform and is still an active home to some of the top names in the global security industry. Although the younger generation tends to be swerving X these days, the movers and shakers in the industry are still involved, so this needs to be a major weapon in your brand creation armoury.

Sadly, it is also home to many “bots”, sources of false or misleading information, employed by nation-states, political parties, and numerous interest groups with specific agendas, so don’t get sucked in.

Here are my tips for rapidly becoming a respected security industry micro (1000+ followers)  “X” influencer.

  • Have a quality profile. Yet again, use a decent head & shoulders photo. Use every available character to promote who you are, as searches look for terms in the profile description, so be descriptive. “Security Professional” will not gain as much attention as “The City of London based, blue chip physical security professional. Security Institute member, currently studying for a level 5 qualification in risk management.”
  • If you have any doubts as to whether or not your employer monitors your “X” feed, presume they do, so do not forget to add the disclaimer of “All Views Are Solely My Own” and “Likes = bookmarks not endorsements”, just in case you say, or even seem to support something, that may not be in line with your employer’s company policy. It probably won’t save you if you have gone postal, but it may help a bit.
  • Be positive. This is no silly point. Study “X” for any length of time, and you will find that the moaning, miserable types attract other moaning, miserable types, generally angry with the world because it is certainly not their fault that they have failed in their career or can’t get a girl or boyfriend.
  • Professional types are positive. If you don’t feel it, fake it until you do! Professionals in the security industry are attracted to positivity because it reeks of success and achievement. You will also quickly find that all the real players and influencers in the security industry are genuinely nice people. I kid you not. You will find so many real industry stars ready to help you and give you good advice, but you need to display a positive attitude!
  • BE: Warm, Enthusiastic, Supportive, Keen, Intelligent, Agreeable, Humble.
  • AVOID: Argumentative, Arrogant, Opinionated, Insulting, Disparaging.
  • Follow the key security industry people and top companies. Look at all those that follow the people and organisations you are interested in and those that resonate with you. Repeat this, and you will have a substantial list of followers before long
  • If you hit the maximum follow limit, just go back 4 weeks into the list of people you follow, and unfollow anyone that has not followed you, until you can continue. Don’t go off track, and watch out for bots!
  • Don’t follow accounts with no descriptions, only a few followers, and with anything less than a professional profile. BOTS will follow you, however, so be prepared to lose a few followers whenever “X” does a purge on “suspect” accounts.
  • Within a couple of months, it is quite possible to gain a following of 1000+, just bear in mind that obtaining valid followers gets harder as you progress.
  • DO NOT automatically follow back everyone that follows you. Some may be bots. Some may be con artists. Some may just be so far from your desired network as to dilute and devalue your professional brand. Check each profile before you accept anyone.
  • Occasionally do a search of your own name. Why may you ask? As you grow in followers and your online profile expands, you will, unfortunately, attract criminals who will duplicate your account, pretending to be you, to con the unsuspecting in myriad ways. It is very, very freaky and immensely unpleasant, but, “X” is pretty good at suspending and then deleting these malicious “clone accounts.”, just ensure you check from time to time and let “X” know if you find any, via the reporting system on the profile page of these ‘shady’ accounts.

If you think I’m Joking, I have had 7 so far, all using my photo, full name, and description, but slight variations of my @handle! 

  • Create quality content. No need to become a journalist. Just Tweet news and info relevant to your target readership. Where to get this info? Retweeting news you find on “X” is fine, but for a little extra edge, may I introduce you to a service such as “Google Alerts”.
  • Just Tweet! Been somewhere interesting? Take photos and tweet them with a comment. Had a great idea? Run it up the “X” flagpole and see who salutes! Do you want to thank someone or a company for something publicly? “X” is your tool. Remember, you can try to include a photo, graphic or even one of the stock GIFs. It simply increases the views of your post. We all love pictures, after all!

Facebook has been around for a long time, in social media terms, so I’m not going to go into great detail about the pros and cons. Be aware that this platform normally gives employers the grounds to reject applicants, fire existing employees, and help the Police catch the less intelligent segment of the criminal fraternity.

Things to consider:

  • It is a bit of an urban myth that prospective employers will look at your Facebook page and reject you because of a few photos of you being a “bit merry” in a bar in San Antonio. Everyone is allowed to be a bit silly on holiday. Employers these days tend to recognise this. Facebook is generally the platform for photo sharing with friends and family. Hence, if you’re posting stuff that you want restricted to a certain closed group, please look at and alter your “Privacy Settings”, and ensure all posts are set for “Friends Only” viewing.
  • Check what your friends may have “tagged” you in. You may have the tightest security and have MI5 levels of caution on your account. Still, suppose your mate Dave has tagged you in a photo, viewable by anyone, or simply cut and pasted one, involving 5g of Colombian marching dust, three prostitutes, and a goat. In that case, you will not get the amazing job in the City you had hoped for. Probably.
  • Join security-related groups and pages. You can interact with like-minded professionals in a wide range of fields. You can be robust with your views, and feel free to add constructive criticism to the posts of others, but, in the words of Jack Nicholson, “BE POLITE!”

Instagram seems to have a small following within the security industry. As an individual security professional, unless you have some fantastic pictures of yourself pouting in a mirror, I really wouldn’t bother.   

Trends and fashions come and go, but LinkedIn, “X”, and Facebook seem to endure so I’d make these the basis of your online professional branding campaign.

In summary:

•   Be professional online. Be the person you want to be seen as.

•   Be respectful and positive.

•   Develop a network of quality industry contacts.

•   Showcase your skills and advanced knowledge.

But remember, the brand, image, and contacts you develop online are just a part of the machine you will need to drive your career. CPD and advanced training are the others. Actively work on these areas, and the sky is the limit.

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