The Internet, and the access it provides us to people and resources, can be leveraged for your career development through the use of many social media and networking sites. This growing system of tools allows job seekers to both explore employment opportunities and market themselves to potential employers. Social media and career advising are two popular topics here at Inside Online Learning and with this post I am bringing them together, highlighting some of the ways job seekers are engaged in a web-based search for employment.
Have a Strategy in Place
Take a little time to plan your engagement with social media – assessing your goals for the process and making some decisions about how you will proceed. Set some ground rules for yourself before you begin to develop your online presence or digital identity with career development in mind.
- Choose your sites carefully. Having fewer, well-developed accounts may be more helpful in the long run than opening many accounts where there's little activity. Remember, it's not about the media, but what you can do with it in terms of joining communities, building relationships, and marketing your skills and experience. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are just a few of the available platforms you should consider. Tip: Find out which sites are popular with working professionals in your career field and explore these first.
- Take a professional approach. How do you want to be perceived by others who view your profile information online? Consider this from the employer's perspective and keep everything professional across the board, from your selection of an avatar or photo to your email address. For sites in which you are already active, check your privacy settings to ensure that the information available publicly is what you want others to see. Tip: Ask for feedback about your online presence from your school's career services professionals and alumni from your program working in positions similar to the ones you are seeking.
- Develop a personal learning network. You've probably heard the saying, "it's not what you know, but who you know." This is often be true of finding a job and your network can be even more important in a tight job market. Employers often feel more comfortable hiring people they know or who have been referred to them by someone they know. By connecting with others both inside and outside your career field, you build relationships that may lead to job opportunities. Social media tools allow you to do these things online. Tip: Build your network now, while you are a student, through school groups, professional associations, alumni mentoring programs, as well as with your classmates and instructors.
Manage the Tools and Tasks
Action on your part is necessary to implement your social media strategy and engage in a successful job search. It can seem overwhelming, especially as you get started, but here are a few techniques for managing the process:
- Be proactive. It's not enough to just register for accounts, you've got to maintain them – keeping them up-to-date with your latest information and making sure that they say "hire me!" Career coach Tim Tyrell-Smith defines "updating" as "the act of refreshing or providing a reminder of your presence online. The act of adding new content or information about yourself within your profile or content stream in each social platform." Tip: Schedule time each day to update your accounts, reply to messages, and make new connections.
- Identify specific companies. Personal branding expert Dan Schawbel recommends, "conduct[ing] a people search instead of a job search." This holds true both online and in person. Social networking sites feature not only searchable individual profiles, but also company profiles. Tip: You can "follow" company accounts and search for people that are working there. Add them to your networks and reach out with questions, not about job openings, but about the industry to get conversations started.
- Go where the conversations are already happening. Locate groups that are already discussing the career topics you are interested in and you may find a group that can help answer your questions. LinkedIn is one of the largest social platforms focused specifically on career networking with a range of participation options that includes discussion forums and alumni groups, and tools specifically for students. Tip: It's okay to "listen in" to an online group at first to get to know the flow of discussion, the topic, and participants. Don't wait too long to join in and add your questions and feedback to the conversation.
- Demonstrate your skills and experience. One of the benefits of social media in the job search is that there are many ways for you to present your skills and experience online. This could take place in a variety of ways such as sharing helpful resources with your Twitter network, blogging about your areas of interest and expertise, and developing an ePortfolio with samples of your work. Tip: Add links to your websites and professional profiles to your email signature.
- Look for jobs. This may sound obvious, but have you considered that many employers are now announcing job openings through their social media accounts? As reported by Job-Hunt.org, a Jobvite survey of over 800 employers in 2011 found that 89% were "using or planning to use social media for their recruiting." Tip: Review and edit your profiles in the sites you are using to focus on your skills and experience, and let people know you are looking for a new position.
Is participation in social media required for your job search? No, unless of course the jobs you are looking for will require or involve social media in some way, but it is another tool at your disposal. When used thoughtfully and purposefully social media and networking tools can help you open conversations, build relationships, and find new career opportunities.
Image credit: Robert S. Donovan, Flickr, CC-BY