Social Media and the Job Search

There was a time not that long ago when the concept of networking for a job using the Internet would have been considered as heresy by most career councilors and coaches. Networking was supposed to be a personal face-to-face activity. You wrangle an invite to a local chamber of commerce mixer and talk to as many strangers as you could. Hopefully, you’d come away with one or two good references.

That networking model is so TwenCen! Today, social media sites are the hottest way to network for your next job. Techies have been doing this for some time, but they were just the first adopters. Everyone seems to be jumping in and turning social media into a valid job search tool.

Which social media site should you choose for your job search? It doesn’t really seem to matter. Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace can all be used although how you go about making your presence known varies greatly between sites.

Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook

With Twitter’s 140-character limitation, you have to resist the temptation to tweet something like, “OMG! Lost my job! Need help ASAP!” That’s really not going to work for you. What you can do is tweet a URL link to your latest blog article or to a web site with a work product of which you’re especially proud. If you’re accustomed to tweeting about sunsets and concerts, that’s something you’ll have to avoid doing if you’re to have any success at searching for a job.

MySpace has the reputation of being something of a kiddy land, yet it has its benefits to those looking for work. Admittedly, MySpace attracts a younger crowd, but it also attracts a highly creative crowd. Artists, musicians, writers, and performers of all kind have developed a presence on this site. The benefits of MySpace are obvious if you’re looking to network in these areas. That MySpace carries job listings furnished by SimplyHired.com implies a move toward a more professional image. Craft an effective job search out of MySpace by designing your page to highlight your work history, skills, and experience.

If you happen to have a Facebook page, you may have figured out for yourself where this discussion is leading. When creating a Facebook page, you must create a profile. All too often, profiles are full of things that are personal likes such as liking chocolate, Yanni, and the Chicago Blackhawks. These are the sort of things that make us what we are as people. However, potential employers and those who may know of job openings don’t care if you like Harleys. They want to know what you’re about as a potential employee. The best way to demonstrate this is by building your profile so that it showcases your work history and skills.

LinkedIn

The best and most professionally oriented of the social networking sites is LinkedIn. LinkedIn has been designed to connect professionals with other professionals. As such, it is the most powerful job search tool of the four sites being mentioned. What makes LinkedIn so powerful? The answer is a combination of LinkedIn’s structure and the quality of the information you put into your profile.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn starts with building a profile. Build your profile with as much care as you used in creating your resume, because Google will pick up your page based on the key words you used in your profile. Google likes well-crafted LinkedIn pages. As you’ll see, this can pay big dividends.

Once you’ve created your LinkedIn profile, your next task is to begin to connect with others. Unlike some of the other social networking sites, LinkedIn has a more formal process for establishing contact with others. LinkedIn has a number of special interest groups, such as alumni associations—both collegiate and corporate—and groups interested in various fields of work. But don’t expect to just barge in. You’ll need to contact the leader of each group that interests you to ask for permission to join.

Why Go to So Much Trouble?

If you can’t just join LinkedIn groups, or if you have to play around with Facebook profiles, or if you’re limited to 140-character tweets, why should you bother? You should bother with these things because they work. They don’t work instantly. You can’t expect to get a job tomorrow from a tweet you send today. Like an apple tree, social networking sites take time to bear fruit.

You may get a lead on a job from someone in your field that you meet on Facebook, but you’ll have to find that person and develop a relationship with them. If you ran into a stranger as you left work and he, out of the blue, asked you to recommend him for a job to your boss, would you do so? You have a reputation with your boss, and you wouldn’t be willing to jeopardize it for someone you don’t know. Establishing useful relationships take time.

But there’s also hope. Recruiters and hiring managers look at social network sites to find qualified candidates. They do so by searching for key words in profiles. Remember what we said about Google picking up LinkedIn profiles, based on key work content? This can be where it pays off. Qualified candidates are being proactively located this way and are being interviewed and offered jobs.

There is, of course, a downside to all this. There’s a growing trend to use searches of social networking sites as something of an informal background check. They look for questionable activities or postings. They also tend to look for compromising pictures. And the commentary and graphic need not be posted by you to get you in trouble with potential employers. If you expended a lot of energy ripping your previous employer or if you posted those pictures from your brother’s wedding—you know the ones we mean—you might find yourself wondering why you weren’t offered the job.

If you’re serious about using your social networking pages to enhance your job search, give your friends a warning. They’ll need to step lightly when posting things to your page. Be proactive and remove any questionable or compromising pictures. Above all, be judicious in what you post or tweet—but you should do that as a rule anyway. In short, ask yourself what it is you would want to see on one of these sites if you were looking to hire someone, based on the content of the page.

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Please post your thoughts and comments. Also, if you want to publish this article or print to share, please keep this copyright permission statement with the article. These articles are joyfully shared to help others, but are not to be used for profit or sale to others. Copyright 2010 Bette Novak, LifePath Associates LLC.

Image by mbortolin via iStockphoto

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