By Aneesa Bhanji
When Hope Schrier began making TikToks while working as a sales associate at Garage, she never expected it would lead to a new career opportunity. Schrier, a second-year creative industries student, said without her active presence on TikTok, she wouldn’t have landed her job today as a social media brand ambassador for the clothing company.
“I didn’t even really know too much about the ambassador program. I would just make TikToks at work because it was fun for me,” she said.
Even though she was making the videos for fun, it led to a new opportunity when Schrier’s manager suggested she join the ambassador team.
“It’s definitely been the coolest thing to happen to me,” she said.
But while social media has brought Schrier new opportunities, the pressure to always maintain a certain image online has left her feeling overwhelmed.
“I think, unfortunately, with certain things like trends, people can take things the wrong way. You have to be very careful with what you post online,” Schrier said.
In the beginning of this year, The Harris Poll was commissioned by Express Employment Professionals to conduct a survey. It found that 65 per cent of Canadian companies say they use social media to screen job applicants.
As we become entrenched into the digital age, networking on social media has become a necessity for Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students to grow their roster of connections and market themselves to future employers.
“It’s almost an extension of your CV or resume…a formal way to put yourself out in the world as a potential candidate for work,” said Gavin Adamson, a journalism professor at TMU.
A 2019 field experiment conducted by ResumeGo, an online resume service, found that job applicants who included a link to a “comprehensive LinkedIn profile” were 71 per cent more likely to receive a job interview.
Kaylee Chu, a third-year professional communications student, said she felt pressured to start social media networking in her first year of university, especially since her program did not offer a co-op option.
“There [were] a lot of people around me who had been networking for years, since they were in high school and now they’re working in co-ops for big companies,” Chu said.
After building her network on apps like LinkedIn, Chu said being active on social media has led her to compare herself to her peers.
As she began to see more posts like “I started a position at this company” and “I’m excited for my new chapter,” she felt intimidated. “You feel really behind,” she said.
In 2021, Statistics Canada reported that frequent exposure to information about user’s exciting activities, material success and personal accomplishments, like jobs, can lead to idealized perceptions of other peoples’ lives, with increased feelings of social deprivation, lower self-esteem and unhappiness.
When it comes to networking, constantly updating social media is also now part of the process. Many students are feeling the pressure to keep their profiles up to date to advance their careers.
Adamson said on one hand, social media networking can be tremendously beneficial for students in showing themselves to be the professionals that businesses and organizations are looking for.
On the other hand, it can create a lot of pressure to make sure that all the messaging is kind of on point especially throughout a variety of profiles. “It’s just a layer of work that frankly, was not there 10 years ago,” said Adamson.
Networking online has also left students questioning when to use social media for fun and when to use it for work.
Mirelle Gique, a fourth-year marketing student and a social media assistant for the University Relations department at TMU, said maintaining this balance can be difficult.
“The line is kind of blurry, where sometimes I’m scrolling for fun and then I see an idea that I really like, that could be for work,” said Gique.
She encouraged students to set limits for themselves on social media and said students should be authentic when networking online.
“On social media, it’s kind of hard to sometimes be yourself or it’s easier to be someone you’re not,” Gique said. “But stay true to who you are. It is kind of cheesy but that’s the best way to make genuine connections and build your network online.”