Using Social Media in your Job Search
Entire books have been written about this very topic. What we’ll offer you here is an introduction to the basics – watch future entries for more detail on leveraging the major social networking tools available for the aspiring job hunter.
Don’t wait until you actually want a new job
I worked with an exec who used to say, “Always keep your resume and your letter of resignation in your briefcase at all times.” It sounds a little odd, but there’s a lot of virtue to the idea. You don’t know when opportunity will knock, and you don’t want to be invisible when someone is looking for the perfect person to fill your dream job. So take your updated resume (you DID update your resume after our earlier advice on the subject?) and use it to get your presence established. When the time comes that you are jobhunting in a more focused way, you can refine what’s already there to match your specific goals.
Create a single consistent profile
Employers who encounter your online presence in different locations should get a single, strong sense of who you are. Have a good, clear avatar photo (preferably a head shot) and a simple message about your value proposition to a company that hires you. What are your talents, skill sets and areas of interest? What do they get with you that they won’t get from anyone else?
Choose your keywords
For tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and various job search/resume databases, make sure that your profile will come up when potential opportunities come knocking. Watch the postings for the jobs that interest you, pick out the important skill set or qualification words, and make sure that those words appear in your profile/resume.
Check your footprints
Look back over the places on the web where you have posted comments, entered into discussions, signed guestbooks and otherwise left traces of your presence. Did you use a single distinctive user name over and over? Is there any chance that an employer will find one of these instances and use it to find the others? Did you express any opinions or use any language that might create problems for you? Erase those connections wherever possible, since they can distract from the profile you are trying to create. This is particularly important if you have an unusually-spelled, easily-searchable name. Also take note if there are high-profile users with similar names to yours – you want to be aware, going into an interview, that an employer may have incorrect information about your activities.
Facebook can be a powerful tool for the job search, particularly for consultants and contract/freelance personnel who need to stay continuously alert to new opportunities. In that case, you’ll need to become familiar with the features which allow you to separate your Friends into various groups, and choose which items to share with which groups. Overall, avoid posting complaints about your current job or photos and comments about your party lifestyle or any chronic health problems. If you’re hoping that friends can connect you with job opportunities, you want them to feel safe about recommending you to their employers and contacts.
Facebook has several job-search applications which link to other tools like Monster and LinkedIn. Check out BeKnown, IngBoo, CareerBuilder for Facebook and BranchOut for ways to link together the various elements in your online profile.
If you do not choose to have your Facebook profile as part of your job search, make sure that your privacy options are on the tightest possible settings, to keep that part of your life as invisible as possible.
A good LinkedIn profile can be an excellent route to job opportunities. Go for quality, not quantity, when connecting with others; stick to people who know you and your work well, or who already work in your target industry/company. Make sure your profile is complete and up-to-date, and generate recommendations for yourself by offering them to others. Join alumni groups for your schools and past employers. Choose a few subject discussion groups in areas where you have particular expertise, and contribute to the discussion. Recruiters and HR specialists often watch these areas, and contact desirable-looking candidates to offer opportunities, or to gain feedback on who in the community they might recommend.
Use Twitter with caution. While it’s good to get the word out that you’re hunting for a job, your contacts will turn off or tune out quickly if you bombard them with things they don’t care about. Keep your Tweets upbeat, and offer valuable information as often as you request it.
Where Twitter can really work for you is in who YOU follow. Don’t spend much time on the official feeds of companies you are interested in; unless they are recruiting firms, the information available through these channels will be too general, and more about marketing their interests than meeting yours. Instead, seek out people in the company who might offer more specifically useful information about trends in the industry and potential opportunities. Recruiters and HR workers have grabbed hold of Twitter as a powerful tool for getting the word out on opportunities; follow as many of these feeds as you can, but organize them into lists/industry areas to make sure that you don’t drown in the data stream.
If you think we’ve really only dipped our toe into the potential possibilities of social media for the job hunt, you’d be absolutely right. There’s hundreds of articles and resources to help you create your profile and really leverage the power of any of these (and several other) tools. But for many of you, we hope we got you thinking about the next steps you need, to take control of your online professional presence and make it work for you. In future, we’ll get into more nitty-gritty details for each of these, plus some other, online career development tools.