May 10, 2011
What role does social media play in your job search?
Can social media help you find a job faster? Can tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Google profiles help your personal brand? Will tools like LinkedIn replace our resumes in the future?
From my experience working with professionals in transition, I can say "yes" to all three questions. I have personally experienced and witnessed the impact social media has had on the job-search process. More and more companies and recruiters are looking at tools like LinkedIn to get a near-accurate view of an applicant's true career history. They are checking out the applicant's behavior online on tools such as Twitter and Facebook prior to bringing the person in for an interview.
Experience shows that people tend to be more honest online than they are on their resumes. Experience also shows that you can forecast the future employee's behavior by watching how the person communicates and behaves online.
There are many unfortunate stories we read in the news about people losing their jobs based on what they tweeted or pictures they uploaded to Facebook. You've probably also heard of job offers getting revoked based on information the employer found about an applicant online.
Does this mean you should avoid leveraging these sites? I don't think so. If you use them correctly, they can only help your credibility and ultimately strengthen your job applications and your career prospects. Below is a high-level discussion on what to consider when joining and using these sites.
Your personal brand
How do you want to be perceived? What are your future career goals and what can you do today to lay the foundation to achieve those goals?
The questions posed above can help you create and establish your personal brand. Your resume only reflects the past, while your brand reflects the future. From now on, what you do, say and share will impact how others perceive you. Are you knowledgeable in a certain area? Do you share good information and make good recommendations? Are you reliable, on time and trustworthy?
Tools like Twitter allow you to share information and expertise in your domain. They also allow you to follow other experts in your field, learn from and converse with them, and share their knowledge with your followers (aka retweet). The same can be said about LinkedIn and Facebook groups.
Social media best practices
While I don't claim to be an expert on this topic, I've shared some common sense practices below that you can apply immediately to your online profiles.
Complete your profiles. Creating a good bio, attaching a professional photo and then detailing your experience and interests are essential to being found and communicating the right message with your prospective audience.
Research companies, competitors and experts. Tools such as LinkedIn and, at times, Twitter and Facebook, allow you to find companies you might want to work for. These tools also allow you to find out who you're up against, and people you can learn from.
Prospect for decision-makers.
Chances are very high that you're going to find the hiring manager or HR folks on LinkedIn. At times, I have found these people on Facebook and Twitter, and this information allowed my clients to connect with them easier by knowing what to say, instead of starting with an awkward cold-call.
Promote yourself. We live in a country where if you don't let others know what you're doing professionally, you basically don't exist. A subtle and socially acceptable way of promoting yourself is by sharing your expertise. Tools such as SlideShare.net and Box.net integrate with LinkedIn nicely, and allow you to showcase your knowledge or work samples. This can increase a hiring manager's confidence that you're an expert, versus just another standalone resume.
You can also promote yourself by tweeting great articles in your domain, sharing great events you find, and having others retweet your messages.
Connect with influencers. My favorite influencers are group managers on LinkedIn and the trend-setters on Twitter. The right relationship with influencers can connect you with hundreds, if not thousands, of others who can hear about you and your intentions.
Engage with the community, experts and decision-makers. There is very little benefit to building your profiles and sharing great knowledge if you have no intention of actually engaging with people and creating new relationships. Find out what other people are saying, comment on their updates, retweet their messages and converse with them online.
These tools aren't meant to replace true offline face-to-face interactions. Used properly, they can enhance those interactions and help you develop deeper relationships.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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