Networking is a crucial component of any job search. And today's social-networking technology makes it easier than ever to network your way into the job of your dreams.
Many companies are employing social media as a means to market their products. And just as they are relying on blogs, wikis, forums, and social networking to pitch their news, they are starting look at how job seekers pitch themselves via these channels. (To learn more about how companies are taking advantage of social media, download "12 Essential Tips for Success in Social Media" for free here.)
Use these tips to ping, tweet, poke, and post your way into your dream job or a new career.
1. Get LinkedIn to various networks.
A good rule of thumb for job searching is to make yourself visible and available. Traditionally, that means posting your resume on sites like Yahoo! HotJobs and making sure your friends and family know you're looking. But today, it's more than that. You need to become visible across the web.
Establish your web presence in various avenues, so employers can find you. Create profiles on multiple social networking sites and even consider starting a blog about your trade.
According to Paul Gillin, a social media marketing consultant and the author of "Secrets of Social Media Marketing," LinkedIn and Twitter are the two outlets you want to be sure to use as a job seeker.
LinkedIn is the place to start, according to Gillin. "The reason for that is that LinkedIn is very targeted and very focused" he says. "It's got all the tools and it's got this unique, degrees-of-separation concept where you can find people by being introduced by a common link." Finding common connections through the LinkedIn tools is a great place to start networking for a new career.
Secondly, Gillin gives high praise to Twitter as a job seeker's tool. "I recommend Twitter because it may be the fastest way to get in touch with someone you want to reach," Gillin says. "Anyone on Twitter can get a message to anyone else who is on Twitter."
Gillin notes that finding an email address for a contact within a company can be a challenge. But locating someone on Twitter and sending him or her a quick note is relatively simple. And emails to potential employers tend to be formal and somewhat wordy--these long-form emails are often ignored. But, Gillin says, "because Twitter is so brief, people tend to respond quickly on Twitter."
2. Clean up your social-networking presence.
Having a social-networking presence can be a great way to land your dream job. But it can also be a liability. Make sure your online appearance projects the image you want to share with potential employers.
HR professionals and recruiters have gotten very good at finding ways around privacy limitations when investigating job candidates. Even if you think you have a private profile, use caution.
"If you're going to share photos of yourself face down in a puddle of beer, you should choose to do that under a pseudonym," recommends Gillin. "Think of how you want to appear to the outside world."
Your online personality is as important as your resume. Just as you would proofread a cover letter or resume before sending it, edit your Facebook profile, tweets, and blog posts with the same detail.
"Spell checker is not sufficient for that task," Gillin says. "Before you publish anything online, have someone who knows the language read your website."
And monitor your behavior online as well--that is, "avoid loose-cannon behavior," Gillin says. Posting overtly nasty or vindictive comments, incorrect facts, or anything that doesn't appear polished can hurt your chances.
3. Have a distinct message about yourself.
Searching for a job is a marketing task--you are marketing yourself to a specific audience. And as with any good marketing plan, you need to develop the message that you want to get across. Define the message, and then figure out how to get that message heard. Find information that backs up the claims you make about yourself.
"It could be your words, pictures of the work that you do, or evidence of your achievements," Gillin says. "Then you promote those. You use the various social-media tools to push that out."
It's important to show employers what you've done. Post it on your Facebook page, tweet about it, etc.
4. Be honest.
"12 Essential Tips for Success in Social Media," a marketing brief focused on how to effectively engage through social marketing, urges social networking participants to be honest.
"One characteristic of social media is that people are more aggressive about reading between the lines to interpret other people's intentions. And they're remarkably savvy about it. ... If someone suspects you're in some way misrepresenting yourself, they'll use any of the tools available to investigate your past postings across the blogosphere to sniff out what you're really up to. It happens all the time, and it severely undercuts the credibility of anyone exposed as a shill. Whether you're launching your own social media site or just participating in discussions around the Web, be conspicuously honest and straightforward about who you are and whom you represent."
Creating a Facebook profile about your accomplishments is a great tool, but only if you have actually achieved the success you post about. Present yourself to the Web professionally, thoughtfully, and honestly.
5. Participate in the conversation.
Your personal web presence is incredibly important, but don't forget that your potential employer likely has its own presence as well.
According to "12 Essential Tips," the key to building influence in your community is getting involved: "You need to participate in the conversation. If you've already identified the people influencing market dialog, comment on their blogs. Write posts that track back to their blog if they allow that. Write posts that engage or challenge them on a topic that matters. Go forth and get in the conversation; don't wait for it to come to you. To be successful, you need to continually engage and develop relationships through dialog with the influencers."
Find blogs and forums within your industry and become a participant. It's possible that your future boss operates or participates alongside you. Your thoughtful comments within popular industry spaces online will bolster your credibility and improve your chances of landing your dream job.