If it’s Called Social Networking, Why do I Have to Use a Computer?

Your Jobsmith here!

Firstly, I would like to apologize for the delay in this posting. There was far more information than I expected on this topic and it took me a little while to sift through it all and compose the very best of it for you.

On to this week’s topic: Social Networking and the Job Hunt. Social networking is a category of tools that are found online which help to connect people through common interests, friends, careers, or other characteristics. The biggest social networking sites are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. While each of these is an excellent resource for finding friends, old coworkers, and new acquaintances, they also provide an opportunity for networking whether or not you are in the middle of a job search. In my next post, I will go into explaining how you can protect and build your representation online through privacy settings and establishing yourself as a presence on the Internet. This week, I just want to talk about how to establish and maintain significant online connections.

Even up to a few years ago, networking was a term that meant calling, writing, emailing, or talking with people that you know to help you in your job search. The general way that this would take place is by forwarding your resume to the right person, putting in a good word, or connecting you with someone else who may be able to help. The ways that networking can help haven’t changed, although there are many more ways to build and contact your network.

I will begin with the most concise of the networks; Twitter is all about brevity. Twitter allows you to “follow” what other people and organizations instantaneously post in 140 characters or less. You can also post your thoughts and discoveries to people and organizations who are following you. While this may sound useless or a worse form of text messaging, it is in fact more about linking people to ideas or places on the web. Twitter allows for short, clear posts about what is happening right now, or what one is discovering presently. For example a friend might tweet a picture that she took, a news organization might post a link to a breaking news story online, or a business might look for technologically savvy people to fill a position through a tweet from one of their HR people or their company account. By following companies you would like to work for and human resource professionals that they employ you may be the first to find out about a position. Being the first has huge advantages.

In addition to the speed of connection Twitter brings, it also allows one to connect with many people without needing an introduction. By tweeting about your industry and engaging in conversations over Twitter about your line of work you will end up in contact with many individuals who you may have not met through any other means. The conversations that you take part in through Twitter will allow you exposure to new networks of people and give you the chance to follow and be followed by the person who may have the perfect job for you!

Much like Twitter, Facebook is mostly a socially oriented network, but with the average age of users growing, the sheer number of users, in addition to its pervasiveness in many people’s daily lives, Facebook is fast changing your virtual network into something as useful in a job search as your physical network. Facebook is allowing individuals to keep track of and rekindle connections which without the advent of social networking would otherwise be lost to time and distance. In my next posting I will address how to employer proof your Facebook account, but for now I will be discussing techniques that you might use to gain leads through the largest online network to date.

The first idea is fairly basic, but it is key for both online and offline networking. It comes from TheJobBored, and although it is a fairly short article, it touches on something that many people miss: consistency and specificity. These two traits (as well as appreciation when your network helps you) are what will keep your network involved in your job search. The suggestion that TheJobBored puts forth, with case studies to back it up, is that you use your wall and status updates as a kind of digital job search journal. This will make sure that almost all of your friends will know where you are in your job search, what sort of positions you are applying for and what organizations you are applying with. You never know when your mention of a skill, title, school, or business will spark someone’s memory about a friend they have working there, looking for that, or in need of a “fill-in-the-blank”.

Once you have used your main page on Facebook to the fullest, it is time to attempt making new connections. It is best if you are constantly making these connections and engaging in this type of activity even when you are fully and happily employed, but it is never too late to start. Making new connections requires reaching out to groups and “like” pages (fan) that you identify with (preferably for your job search you identify in some professional capacity). Using these group’s discussions and walls, you can engage in conversation with other professionals. *Note*: This is not the time to begin telling strangers about your employment issues! Once you have established some rapport with your new acquaintances it may be possible to mention that you are looking for a job and casually ask if they know anyone who may be hiring. Establishing rapport varies in time based on the people involved and circumstances surrounding their relationship. These sorts of connections’ strength and maturity are very difficult to judge. The connections that you can make through groups and fan pages are most usable if they began before you started looking for a job or if you can show real expertise in your field without appearing to be a know-it-all. Expertise can be your biggest boon as it shows your strengths and your actual ability to use a certain skill: who ever you are using your expertise to help no longer has to take your word for it or wonder what exactly you meant on your resume.

Lastly, a novel idea I stumbled upon (although I am unconvinced that it will yield results for everyone) is taking an ad out for yourself on Facebook. I can see this helping PR/Marketing professionals, Social Media gurus, or anyone with an IT background. I have yet to see or hear of this working for any other type of worker. Mint.com has some interesting case studies using ads on Facebook. The gist of this strategy goes: 1) Pay for ad space on Facebook which links back to a professional page, whether it be Facebook, your personal website, LinkedIn, Twitter, or all of the above. 2) Run the campaign for a week or so, checking on the analytics about who is seeing and clicking on the ad. 3) Change if necessary to generate more leads. It seems simple enough, if you know what you are doing. As I said before I believe that this approach will help certain professionals, but I am unsure of who it will help and exactly how they will be helped. Also, I have yet to see any data or stories that address one’s rate of return on the investment. Obviously if you get a job out of the ad, it was probably a good investment. I worry that this strategy is much less likely to succeed than the case studies would imply.

There are two necessary clauses to all social networking attempts at finding a job: Once you have started, you must follow-through and you must be specific in your progress. Following through does not mean that you flood your contacts with every detail of your job search, nor does it mean that you only post when you feel that you are on the verge of getting a job. There are a few things that your network needs to know so that they can help you. Your connections need to know what exactly you are looking for, whether that be explaining your skills and looking for a good match or a specific title that you wish to hold, if people don’t know what exactly they can be looking for to help you they will tune you out. People also need to know where you are looking specifically. They don’t need to know that you are on Monster.com everyday, but they should know if you have been researching ABC INC. One of your connections may have a brother working there, or an old coworker who changed companies and is now in charge of a department. Your network also needs to know what actions you are taking to become reemployed. Let them know when you take a course at your community college, let them know that you are available for contract or consulting work, and make sure that they know that you applied at “here-and-there”. Just like the first two types of information that your network should be supplied with, your actions will provide people with specifics, but also it will also give them a sense of your effort and passion. People want to follow movement, people are drawn to energy, and if you are taking actions to improve your situation and giving people specific ways that they can help, they will want to help you. You will be surprised at how far someone will go out of their way to help you when you are doing just as much or more to help yourself. The last thing that your network needs to know is that their efforts are appreciated. It is important to make people who are trying to help you feel good about what they are doing, even if nothing comes from their efforts right away.

You don’t have to post all of your activity on all of your social networks, but make sure that you pay attention to each part of your network regularly (this includes your physical one as well). Some networks like Twitter aren’t conducive to collecting everything from your job search, for others like LinkedIn it may be inappropriate to post about all the different jobs and companies that you are looking at. LinkedIn still requires consistency and specificity, but in a slightly different way.

LinkedIn is a network for professional connections. It is a social website that allows you to post a resume or C.V., write and receive recommendations, view people (both acquaintances, friends, and strangers) by work place, geography, school, and how many degrees away from knowing that person you are (if they are a friend of a friend they are a second degree connection to you). This search capability is one of the best tools that LinkedIn has to offer (aside from its professional profile, of course). Being able to search for people by the company they work for allows you to connect with people who are exactly where you want to be and hopefully offers you a way to get in contact with them through your warm market to set up an informational interview or ask for help in your job search.

Much like Facebook, LinkedIn groups are an excellent way to make new connections with people who you would not have a chance to meet through other means. LinkedIn groups are usually professionally or alumni oriented, and everyone with a LinkedIn profile has one for the specific purpose of professional networking. This means that people you meet through LinkedIn are more likely to be receptive to cold networking attempts. Even though people on LinkedIn would be more receptive to cold contacts, it doesn’t mean that you can just blast off a message to the HR person at a company you’d like to work for. Just like building a network in the physical world, networking through social media takes finesse and tact. Often building connections takes time and common ground; it is not enough that you want something from the other person, any relationship has give and take. Be ready to offer your online connections something in exchange for their friendship. That could be your expertise, a listening ear, your specific skills, or a chance to build their network.

Below this posting, I will leave all my references for this article. Some are better than others. I agree with some of the authors, while have reservations about the way others present social networking. I have included all of them because, while you can’t agree with everything everyone says and I believe that even if an opinion is wrong it is better to be aware of the view point than ignorant to it.

I hope that you’ll check in next Wednesday for the final installation of the series: The 21st Century Job Search; entitled: You Saw Which Picture of Me Online?!?

This is your Jobsmith wishing you the best in your career endeavors!

Annotated Sources:
http://www.glassdoor.com/blog/tips-finding-job-social-media/# – Good information about LinkedIn, Twitter, and some networking, but very concise.
http://mashable.com/2010/10/30/facebook-jobs/ Some good information about Facebooking your way to a job. Well written case studies and novel ideas.
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/leveraging-facebook-to-find-a-job/ Jibe is something new on the horizon. Jibe takes your Facebook and LinkedIn connections and identifies jobs at companies that those people have worked for or currently work for.
http://www.careerchangepathways.com/blog/2010/08/11/using-facebook-to-find-a-job-after-50/ Good Facebook tutorial for beginners/older job seekers.
http://www.thejobbored.com/the-facebook-job-search-or-how-to-find-a-job-using-facebook_1037/ This describes using Facebook as a job search diary to help you network to a job. The author does a great job of describing specificity in concrete terms.
http://www.techaffect.com/2009/04/13/finding-a-job-through-social-media/ Great advice about networking through Facebook and LinkedIn!
http://mashable.com/2009/01/05/job-search-secrets/ Many novel ideas. I don’t believe that they will work for everyone. I do not agree with the author on many points such as that corporate job sites and job banks are a thing of the past. Employers will always need a way to locate and evaluate candidates when they cannot find a good recommendation and social networking tools do not exist to fill that gap. Most of the social networking tools that are used by companies in an employee search are many times used as an extra resource in addition to the more traditional search process. Also, I wish that the author would have gone further into who should use which technique when and what exactly is a good versus bad attempt at using that technique. I feel that for brevity’s sake the author left out a lot of information and assumed his audience to be a certain type of job seeker. It is nonetheless an interesting article with a distinct view point.
http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1903083-1,00.html Does an excellent job of explaining the “hows” and “whys” of social networking as well as a really great case study.
http://mashable.com/2009/02/24/top-10-social-sites-for-finding-a-job/
Great list of 10 social networking sites to help you find a job!
http://www.slate.com/id/2213976/pagenum/all/#p2 I totally disagree with many of his opinions. Here is the best part of the article and the only part that I agreed with:

General guidelines: Social networks demand careful etiquette. The experts I spoke to offered these tips: Don’t spam people. Don’t put on like you’re best friends with people you don’t really know; if you’re contacting an old friend for the first time in years only to ask for a job, at least be up front about it. Don’t ask your friends to recommend you for positions you’re not qualified to do. And don’t sound like a sad sack—whining about not working isn’t going to convince people to help you. It’s also easy to get carried away when selling yourself. Sure, you can make a funny video as your cover letter, or take out ads on Facebook targeted to people in your industry, or ask your wife to hold up a sign begging for a job on your behalf—but to a lot of people, such efforts could signal that you’re not taking the process seriously.
Many of the people I contacted for this story work in tech or media (my circles run geeky), but even beyond those fields, people reported feeling that old ways of looking for work no longer pay off. Gladysz, the guy who’s looking for a job at a bookstore, told me, “I’ve been feeling that creating a kind of brand or persona online is going to be important.”
There’s also some advice for people who are currently employed: Maintain your presence online. Some people believe Facebook is destroying America. But if you lose your job, you’ll probably lose e-mail addresses for all of your colleagues, and you’ll need some way to stay in touch. As Kay Luo, a spokeswoman for LinkedIn advises, “Build your network before you need it.”

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/10-tips-for-finding-a-job-using-facebook-and-linkedin/ I really like this site, and will use them again. The article is positive and fairly thorough about finding a job through Facebook. It gives a variety of techniques, some won’t be useful to everyone, but I am sure that there will be something for everyone in this article!
http://www.mint.com/blog/trends/online-job-searching/ Great Case Studies!

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