Social networking, while a huge component of life, is still a new environment in the grand scheme of things. The growth potential of each of these communities is incredible and that accounts for the hundreds of millions of dollars dumped into each of these social networking companies by investors year after year. However there is great debate over how social networking truly can be capitalized on other than as a community of like minded people.
One area though that social networking has quickly caught on is the area of recruiting. It did not take people, the social networking sites, employers or human resources departments long to realize that the same tools that job seekers had been using for years could be used by them to get information about prospective employees. In fact there has been no shortage of news stories on this phenomenon.
What we want to take a look at today is how you as a job seeker can use this social networking to help you position yourself correctly so that prospective employers can find out what they need to about you. In doing this we will also look at how you can irrevocable hurt yourself in the search for a job through social networking.
Finally, we will delve into the jobs that are helped and hurt the most by this glut of information available through the different networks. Now, I want to go on record that I in no way believe that a person should have to censor themselves in any way. However, what we are looking at here is how you can position yourself for employers on the internet therefore we will be talking about things people should and shouldn't do.
If you as an individual wish to go forward with whatever, realize the greatest asset of social networking and the internet is that you can be who you want and present yourself the way you wish. Just realize with that right is the responsibilities and consequences that come with the decisions that each individual makes. With that in mind let us dig deeper into how you can start to improve your chances of getting that job you applied for with the help of your social networking network.
When I first started posting on the internet the free information this blog provides about personal branding and social networking I was questioned constantly about how it can affect and assist in finding and keeping a job but I wanted to research the topic more before I wrote an article on it. I wanted to know what employers were looking at online when scouting individual employees. This will help us when it comes to looking at how to position your network to be as effective as possible in helping you with your job search. The first place I went to was an article from Linda Roeder written on June 16th of this year.
This article states without a shadow of a doubt that companies are in a large way using social networking and the percentages are extremely high. Her numbers come from a poll released by Jumpstart Media, a company started by Digital Brand Expressions which is a search marketing consulting firm that helps Fortune 1000 companies with their digital branding. In the poll released June 9th of this year 75% of the hiring managers surveyed utilized LinkedIn, they stated that they used Facebook and 26% of them responded that they use Twitter. When further asked why, the managers responded that they were looking for the "professionalism of the person beyond the resume".
This means to me that employers are depending on social networking to get a closer look at the person behind the professional protection often provided by a resume and cover letter. This could mean looking at the groups you belong to, the blogs you have RSS feeding into your profiles, how you are at presenting yourself through written, verbal or visual communication depending on how much multimedia is integrated into your site and simply put your pictures that are publicly available. This means that you truly want to paint a picture of professionalism, especially on LinkedIn, but also on Facebook and now on Twitter as well.
The question I get asked all the time is "How do I do this?" There are countless ways of doing this, but none of them are "easy" and all of them take diligence and work on your part to maintain. The first is to take a look at everything you have posted in each of your accounts and make sure that they are helpful to you professionally. This might mean taking some pictures down and storing them on your hard drive and backing them up in a different way.
This could mean rewriting the bio that you have on your social networking accounts. It might mean changing the articles that you share with people through the mediums such as Twitter and of course it could mean not necessarily always giving your true emotions on your updates. All of these items help paint a picture of you as the individual and no matter what is in the cover letter or the resume, the information that is found in an account that is seen as "totally personal" will always be given more weight in an individual's mind as "the true you".
The next thing that a person will want to do after they have cleansed the accounts they have is frequently update the social networking and keep it active. The reason for this is not just so a company sees that you are a "dedicated and hard working" individual, but this also helps increase the relevancy of the sights that you have altered, and that will help you in the search engines. If this sounds daunting, there are companies and individuals that help people put together plans that can accomplish these goals and in some cases even help them maintain the accounts they have put together.
This is what I do for a living when I am not writing and updating my blogs and accounts and many of my mentors and teachers are also involved in this area as well. Now hopefully you are not exhausted yet because this just the first steps in how you can use social networking to help you in a job search, and this is the most reactionary of all. In most cases this is preemptive work that you have done to make sure you are ready.
The next thing we have to look for in this area is how you can make what is called an irrevocably or almost unchangeable decision that can hurt you when it comes to your social networks. These areas are touched on in an article by Linda Roeder entitled "Your Website Can Affect Other Parts of Your Life" in this article she gives a list of items that can affect and in that list is losing your job and trouble with the law or media. In both of these cases you can do something that could make getting that job harder or in some cases impossible. The first one and this is more a problem with the current youth, is the posting of pictures of people at parties in compromising positions or "having too much fun".
In some cases this is not done by the person themselves but by a third party that was taking pictures with a cell phone or digital camera and then posts the pictures to show how great a party or get together it is. Now with the tagging feature in Facebook and other great features that allow people to point out exactly who you are, you can end up with a not so great searchable image on Google or attached to your account when some searches for you when you apply for that next position.
Another thing that can happen is that people post their information online and update it frequently enough creating plenty of relevance with the name then someone goes to Google your name and the first link that comes up is your Facebook or LinkedIn account. That is fine because you have managed that well and you are showing the right picture, but the next link down is a public records link of a problem you had with the law.
This problem could have been not a big deal but was put on the public record. Now there is your future employer looking right at it. Remember that companies rarely go directly to a social networking site and type in your name. They go to Google or a search engine and type in your name; so just managing one account if you have multiple is probably not going to work. The best way to get a picture of this is Google the name you use on your job applications and resumes and see what comes up, don't just look at the links check the images as well.
I draw your attention to news stories like Tiffany Shepherd and Michael Phelps. Yet, it is not always necessary to find a picture for social networking to have a completely horrid networking experience. This can be seen in many cases such as Kimberly Swann, 16, of Clacton fired because she posted her job was "boring" in her status update on Facebook or here in the United States of Dan Leone who used to work with the Philadelphia Eagles who wrote on his wall that the Eagles were "...retarded" and lost his job. So you can see now that there are things that you need to avoid at all costs so that you can keep your job or be in a position to get that job by not making one of these vital errors.
Now that you are armed with what companies are looking for and the preemptive steps you can take to make sure that you are positioned right for the job, and you have examples of the irrevocable and big no-no's of the social networking world when it comes to getting or keeping your job, we are ready to touch on the final area and that is the proactive things you can do to help you achieve the position you desire. There are 10 proactive steps that you can take and we are going to give a short description of how to go about accomplishing each one.
1. Start learning more about the industry you wish to end up in. You can do this by finding articles and blog information. Looking at the companies in the field and reading about what they do and what they have in common. Look for the competitive advantages. This will allow you to be better informed with how your resume matches up to the positions you will be applying for.
2. Decide a clear career path. This is different than looking for a job. You need to look at not only where you are now, but where you want to be 3 years and even 5 years from now. Look at what the "expected" career path is in the industry you are interested in.
3. Update your resume regularly. This is not something that needs to be done daily or even monthly, but I would look at it at least quarterly and make sure that you are updating numbers in your current position. If you are out of a job, keep focused on the education, and remember you can never know too much about what you want to do. So if you are continuing to educate yourself let it be known.
4. Actively search out people who share the same interests as you. Don't just sit back and say well if I cast a big enough net out there I am destined to get something. Be targeted toward the goal you have and get to know people out there in the industry. See what you have in common and find ways to talk with them.
5. Get involved with groups that allow you to show your knowledge. It does no good to be the smartest man in the world and sit at home all day and never do anything. You must share your knowledge with people. Groups on these social networking sites allow you to do that. Put questions out there to help extend your knowledge and of course when you see a question you have a solid answer for don't hesitate to provide that answer.
6. Find recruiters and staffers that are specific to that industry. You might not be looking for a position that is staffed out by that exact firm or person, but you never know who they know. So make sure that you are not closing doors just because that individual might not be exactly the right one.
7. Be active in a positive way on the networks. This means don't spam everybody all the time, but if you truly have something to share, put it out there and let people know about it. If it is truly topical and of good quality it will be recognized. If the content is consistently solid you might not have to work as long to get the position you desire.
8. Be specific when asked "What you are looking for". I can't begin to stress this enough. Never be modest in this answer by shrugging it off with something like, "well anything I am qualified for". This shows a level of indecision and that can hurt you in the long run. Someone who shows they know what they want comes across as confident and organized.
9. Don't be afraid to ask your entire network to help you in this quest. Simply put if you are not willing to let the people that care about you, be there for you, why are they there. This is a daunting task especially now in this economy where people are struggling to make ends meet and each person has more than one problem. It is easy to feel like you are piling on, but once again you never know who those people know and who can help you. Never make the assumption that "If they knew someone they would not be in this boat".
10. Make looking for your career your job until you find your career. There is an old saying that "a house divided falls". Well a person divided too much fails. So if you are keeping all the bills and parts of life in order as well as trying to make sure that you are looking for a position and then on top of that just dangling your feet in another area you will never make it. You must make a commitment and when you make that commitment stay with it.
With these ten steps, the reactive parts from above and avoiding the mistakes that can shut you down, you have a good starting point for making social networking a positive force in you finding the career you always wanted. This is not a complete guide in that there are other things that you can do that are outside social networking and those should not be forgotten nor will they be ignored. Right now however, let us take one step at a time and making sure that what you have online is in order can be a huge step in putting things in the right direction.
We started this paper and ended this paper looking at how social media can help you find a job. We looked at the ways to clean up the existing media you have and what the companies are looking for when they go online to see your social networking sites. We have touched on the things that can truly shut down a search or a career online before you even start and gave multiple examples of what those were, who they happened to and the articles so you can read about the stories and opinions.
Finally we looked at the proactive steps that you can take to make sure that you are doing what needs to be done to be ready for the career you have chosen, the interviews that will come and the discussions you must and will have. We concentrated online specifically here because we wanted it to be manageable and not something so cumbersome that someone starting the process would feel they could ever finish.
Jeffrey Scott Sherman is the President/Founder of JSS Consulting in Atlanta, GA. He specializes in personal branding and image management for individuals and brand images. If you have questions and would like help contact him, or if you would like him to come speak to your employees, recruits, students or at an event email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.