The Five Second First Impression

High angle view of two businessmen shaking handsWith college graduations fast approaching, I’ve found myself fortunate enough to be on the speaking circuit. Visiting a few college classes and clubs to impart (hopefully) some wisdom about working in PR, manage entry level career expectations and, when possible, offer some guidance for the job hunt. Among the endless string of seemingly trivial and questionably relevant content offered, has been the following platitude: You have five seconds to make a first impression.

Thanks to social media’s real-time functionality, people are viewing, judging, criticizing and arguing against your content only seconds from when you first shared it. For the college students on graduation’s doorstep, and also others on the hunt for a job, this means that tweets, status updates, public Facebook pics and Flickr streams are being analyzed, critiqued and, in many cases, serving as the make or break in the hiring process.

I’m starting to feel like a broken record, reminding people that tweets do matter, that potential employers may be following you (closely) regardless of whether or not you are following them back. That as a student, aspiring career changer, or one of the unfortunate unemployed, you can build relationships and make first impressions without realizing it. That said, how does one make their five second first impression a positive and lasting one?

  • Keep it clean. Common sense folks. Lewd pics and party pics aren’t likely to get you hired.
  • Know who you are following and, inversely, who is following you. If the president of a Fortune 500 company has their eyes on your tweets, erring on the side of caution would behoove you.
  • Spell check. Enough said.
  • Be relevant.
  • Be authentic. If you are a partier on Facebook and the consummate professional on Twitter, potential employers can easily become confused.

Think of your social media platforms as though you are at a career fair or networking event. If you look sloppy and unprofessional, your first impression will undoubtedly be lasting and far from positive.

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