Social Media has changed the way people work, even trainees. It's now possible to create professional profiles and document content online (taking into account confidentiality issues, of course). This encourages people to participate and really take an active role in their work, and helps professionals build and maintain contacts. More importantly, social media can be an invaluable tool for advertising and potentially gaining new business for the firm. Even just "liking" and "sharing" something posted by someone else can grow your network and show people you're integrated into the company. I've also been at networking events where, instead of handing out business cards, people get their phones out and immediately add each other on LinkedIn.
However, it's not all fun and games. Social Media is an increasingly popular and growing area and as such, it is important to remember the pitfalls and risks for any online profile. More and more employers are using the internet to screen potential new employees before they even make it to interview stage. While this raises a few legal and ethical questions, there is a real fear of misrepresenting your professional life online through a personal profile, especially for potential trainees who may not have had a professional profile before.
Although the "Right to be Forgotten" is a controversial topical issue, on a practical level once something is seen by an employer, it cannot be unseen. Nor can content be completely recalled once it has been posted online.
It's therefore important to have a "clean" and preferably private Social Media profile before you start thinking about going for a traineeship, or indeed any job. On any social networking site, you should review that site's privacy settings to enable you to control, and put restrictions on, who is able to access your information. Also, think about your content. While those holiday pics from Magaluf might be hilarious among your friends, you really have to question whether they are entirely appropriate on a fully public profile. Think of it this way - are you comfortable with your granny looking at this photo? If not, you probably wouldn't be comfortable with an employer looking at it either.
If you're not private, you should consider regularly reviewing the content of your personal Social Media profiles, which will enable you to remove any information that you feel could reflect negatively on you.
Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and appropriate. When employers are hiring, they are looking for a professional person who they can train to fit in to what they are looking for in their company. Perhaps your 6 month stint at Clown College, while giving you transferable experience and skills, isn't entirely appropriate for a job in the Legal Profession.
Be respectful on Twitter. Hashtags are wonderful and really help people to communicate and exchange ideas with each other but it is so easy to be drawn into an argument with someone - and the world can see it. And if you use #[any firm name], (with or without the hashtag) there's a good chance one of their Social Media people will be sitting on Hootsuite and will see exactly what you're saying. Remember there is a possibility that your online life is being monitored by your potential employer.
Aside from this blatant scaremongering, things like having a proper up-to-date LinkedIn profile and a private Facebook account will reflect your professional life better than sloppy housekeeping and they will make job seekers stand out in an incredibly crowded market. It’s therefore important to keep up-to-date with developments in Social Media which can present real opportunities, if used effectively. I'm not saying we should be Snap-Chatting our CVs - but we should try not to blur the boundaries between personal and professional use. You never know who's paying attention!
Follow Alyson on Twitter - @AlysonCowan_MF
Do you have questions for me about the traineeship process? Please feel free to get in touch.