Whether you’re in desperate need of a new job or just looking to grease the wheels for a change down the road, social media can play an important role. Just like you’ll need to update your résumé and choose the right interview outfit, you’ll also need to make sure your social networks are in tip-top shape.
We’ve written before about best practices for LinkedIn — and the ways you can screw it up. The stakes are higher when you’re using social networks, since they’re often public and can create a first impression before you’re even called in for an interview. Aside from personal referrals, using social media is the most popular way that people in a Jobvite survey said they found their “favorite or best” job.
No matter what you’re using social media sites for, there are a few rules of thumb that will make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Using your real name in profiles and handles is always your best bet, or getting as close as possible to your real name if yours is already claimed on a site like Twitter. If you’re planning to use your profiles in any professional capacity (and job searching definitely fits into that category), using a real picture of you instead of an icon is also preferred, according to Jay Baer, a social media strategist. It also helps if you can clearly define your spheres of influence, both in terms of your professional skills and your personal interests. That will make it easier for people to relate and connect with you, plus recognize that you have something to offer them.
If you’ve never used social media in a job search and you’re looking for some best practices, we’ve put together a few tips that will help you get started. It’s always in bad form to bluntly ask for a job with any social media connections you make, but there are ways to increase your chances of getting an offer. Whether you live your life in 140-character updates or you’re a social media novice, you’ll be able to put those job search skills to work in no time.
1. Know your “personal brand”
Just like Coca-Cola and Nike have unique brand images they uphold on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, you also have the unique chance to create your personal brand on social media sites. Not sure what that means? Pick five brands you like and list their characteristics. Those are the types of brand images the companies are trying to portray. Then decide what your personal equivalents might be. Often, the most successful brand identities will be internal characteristics that satisfy the needs of other people, Columbia University states on its career tips site.
Your “brand” can advertise your hard skills, such as your computer programming skills or your ability to speak French, Spanish, and Italian. It can also include soft skills such as punctuality or your ability to work in group settings effectively. Whatever your skills are, consistently promote them across your social media channels. If you’re stuck, San José State University offers additional tips for knowing what to emphasize.
2. Choose your platforms wisely
Social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all realm. While you might feel completely at home connecting with people on Facebook, Twitter might feel completely foreign to you. Don’t force something that doesn’t feel comfortable to you, especially if you’ve tried it for a few weeks and still feel ill at ease.
Even if you were born to collect retweets and friend requests, it’s a good rule of thumb to pick a few social media platforms and stick to perfecting them, rather than trying your hand at every one that pops up. “It’s crucial not to ‘saturate the market‘ with an overwhelming number of different methods of personal branding,” Columbia advises. If Twitter and LinkedIn work great for you, maybe keep your Facebook to keep up with college friends instead of hunting for jobs. You might also want to try using one popular social media site and then focusing the rest of your efforts on industry-specific blogs in order to highlight your skills.
Though a consistent presence is necessary on the sites you do choose, less in more in terms of the number of sites you use in the job hunt.
3. Showcase your areas of expertise
Once you know the traits you want to portray and the sites you’re going to use, the real work begins. Often, the way you interact online will depend on your job field and the sites you’re using. This could mean tweeting about current events in the job field, or writing blogs and linking to them on your social networking sites. If a human resources recruiter stumbles across your pages, they’ll quickly be able to tell if you have the skill set they’re looking for.
If you’re in a creative field like design, it’s a good idea to create an online portfolio of your work. To direct eyes to your work, post interesting news on Facebook or Twitter, and link back to your portfolio to steer traffic in the right direction. The more you can show you know what you’re talking about and that you have a passion for your line of work, the better.
4. Stay relevant
Though showcasing your skills is important, it’s also key to make sure you’ve got your thumb on the pulse of your industry. If you’re on Twitter, follow industry experts and the companies they work for, so you stay in the loop even if you’re not in the field at the moment. Share related news stories on Facebook and offer your opinion, if it’s warranted and adds to the conversation.
U.S. News and World Report suggests joining industry-related chats on Twitter, where you’ll be able to meet new contacts, demonstrate your own knowledge, and keep up to date on what’s happening.
5. Know how to find what you need
With social media, half the battle is weeding through the thousands of posts you don’t need to find that contacts and information you’re looking for. Though social media is often useful for skimming and culling information, finding direct posts and information can be a little more difficult. Knowing how to find specific information will set you apart.
For example, you can use Twitter’s advanced search options to find job postings in your geographic area. By typing in your city name in the “This exact phrase” box and then #job or related hashtags, you’ll be able to find postings in your neighborhood.
Dummies.com also points out that if you use this search method, you’ll be able to find job recruiters who work in your area. If the jobs they’re posting aren’t relevant right now, connecting with them could give you a leg up the next time they’re looking to fill a position that’s more suited to your skills.
Follow Nikelle on Twitter @Nikelle_CS