Making social media work now, so it works later
Professionals with a well-rounded and thoughtful social media presence will be better-prepared to network, whether they are in a satisfying job role, or are looking for the next career opportunity.
With an estimated 71% of the U.S. workforce currently in the market for a new professional position—including the unemployed, the employed-but-looking and the employed, but open to changing positions—looking for a job can often feel like more work than holding a job.
The Congressional Budget Office predicts that unemployment will remain near 8% through 2014, and the rate for Millennials—those born between 1980 and 1999—is expected to be double that, according to Generation Opportunity, a national youth advocacy organization.
The numbers, alone, make distinguishing yourself from the pack of job seekers a daunting challenge, but many successful indviduals have discovered a fruitful job search begins well before you start filling out any applications. It begins today, and it begins with social media.
According to Jobvite.com, 94% of companies now use social networks to locate and screen candidates, and regard candidates found through social networks as highly as candidates coming in through the company career site, and almost as high as those coming from referrals. Small and mid-sized companies, where the way in which a person fits into the company is as important as the skillset they possess, are using online networks to determine whether a person will fit with the established corporate culture.
So how do you make social media work for you?
ESTABLISH AN ONLINE PRESENCE
The first step is to establish and maintain your social media presence, not only on popular platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, but within industry-specific online communities. Your goal should be to locate and join groups connecting you to others in your industry, so that you can network and build relationships with people who can make critical introductions on your behalf. Look for groups discussing the topics in which you are interested, and to which you can contribute.
The next step is to set up your profile and presence as part of the online community. Ensure your profile is up-to-date and accurately represents your background and expertise, without reading like a resume. Post a professional-looking photo, and, most importantly, never forget your purpose for being in that space: to establish yourself as a key contributor and skilled practitioner. Your online presence only begins with your profile. It continues with engagement in group discussions, and posting relevant and thought-provoking content.
CONNECTIONS THAT COUNT
Once you have established your online presence, you can effectively network online and build personal connections, which will serve you well, when you begin your next job search. Where connections are concerned, the goal is quality, not quantity. One hundred connections who know you, know your work and would be willing to make introductions on your behalf are exceedingly more valuable than 1,000 connections who would not put their own credibility on the line by passing your name along to a hiring manager or colleague.
Connect with people you already know, including those with whom you have worked directly in the past, and keep them up to date with your status. Reach out to these individuals regularly to share items of interest. Congratulate them on their achievements. Initiate connections and introductions of value to them. Do try to grow your network, especially if you foresee a job search in your future. According to Jobvite.com, four out of 10 job seekers have found their “favorite or best” job through personal connections.
Start by determining where the types of jobs you want exist. What are some companies that do what you want to do? Be methodical and search your existing contacts, to find out whom you know at those companies, and then ask for additional introductions, so you can begin to build a new mutually-beneficial professional relationship with new connections.
An introduction is always preferable, but not always possible, so, if you attempt to connect with someone you don’t know on your own, explain why you would like to connect. Be honest and transparent. Don’t be overly friendly or presumptive.
The final key to making social media work for you is to make connecting online and building new social media relationships a part of your lifestyle—an ongoing professional priority.