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How to use social media to get ahead

Social media can help you make friends, but can it help you get a degree, or even a job?<br />Experts say “Yes,” as long as you clean up your act first.

Social media can help you make friends, but can it help you get a degree, or even a job?
Experts say “Yes,” as long as you clean up your act first.


Beyond offering fun ways to keep in touch, online sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or ePortfolio.org hold a lot of potential for sharing ideas beyond the classroom and connecting you to employers.


Tim Richardson, a professor of e-commerce who teaches at the University of Toronto, uses social media sites like YouTube as a direct part his classes, and he encourages students to showcase the work they’re proud of — like research presentations — online.


He says social media can impact the classroom in a positive way because it often allows for active communication.


“Learning is not just about how we teach the course but it’s about students teaching themselves. True communication is two-way, people have to be able to listen and respond to your ideas,” Richardson said.


David Vogt, director of digital learning projects at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education, suggests the self-publishing aspects of social media can act as a kind of electronic resume but students also need to take command of their online image lest they reveal things that could harm their reputation.


“You have to think about managing your presence online and make sure there’s not a bunch of embarrassing stuff out there about you. You also want to provide really accurate demonstrations of how you work. Think of anything you’ve done as resume material — everything digital about yourself you can aggregate,” Vogt said.


Of course, online life can have its pitfalls — particularly those of the self-inflicted variety. The simple truth of the digital age is that if you put something into the public sphere, it can exist essentially forever, so make sure that any personal information you place online is of the kind that won’t come back to haunt you.


“Be careful about privacy issues and remember that screen captures can live forever. When you’re posting something and you're 21, you don’t want future employers, boyfriends or children asking about it years down the road,” Richardson said.

 
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