Americans spend 27% of their time online on social media. We use social media to get peer reviews and recommendations, tell our followers what we’re eating and learn how to refinish that boring old dresser. Why then are we so hesitant to use these platforms as relationship-building career tools?
Social media is just that: social. It is the great equalizer. You no longer have to be a celebrity to have your voice heard. In fact, people have become celebrities because of their social media accounts—take, for example, Twitter sensation Kelly Oxford.
I’m not asking you to become an online celebrity, but I am asking you to consider social media as your next networking tool. I did it, and you can, too.
Your Elevator Speech in 140 Characters or Less
In the spring of 2011, I was graduating college and engrossed in job searching in a bad economy. One day, while writing a final exam paper at 1:00 a.m., I decided to take a break and mindlessly read through my Twitter feed.
Only this time, I saw 140 characters that gave me a “eureka” moment. It was from a manager at Edelman Digital in Silicon Valley who was looking for an account executive.
I tweeted back asking for the best way to apply for the position and expressing my enthusiasm. He responded immediately and let me know who I should send my resume to (and also that I should mention his name as a recommendation).
Notice that I said “who I should send my resume to” and not the general HR email account. If I had applied for the job without connecting with this contact first, I would be submitting one of those online applications that get lost in a sea of others. Instead, I was connected with a real person in their Silicon Valley office, and I was contacted the next day for a phone interview.
Within the week, I had two rounds of interviews and was a top contender for the position. In the end, I didn’t get this position, but I got much further with a 140 character introduction than I would have with a 500 word cover letter.
I’m not naïve enough to think that my application would have ever been looked at, as a soon-to-be graduate, for a prestigious account executive position in Silicon Valley without this networking opportunity. Twitter is truly the easiest way to connect with people you don’t know well, or don’t know at all.
Create a bio and post a photo. Don’t assume people know who you are. You aren’t the Dalai Lama. (Actually, even he has a bio.)
Follow people doing things you’re interested in. I follow other social media managers, companies and brands who have a great social media presence (can I give a shout out to Taco Bell?) and thought leaders like Guy Kawasaki and Pete Cashmore.
Tweet valuable content. Make sure you’re showing your knowledge in your given field. It’s fine to be personable and share other details, but make sure you’re connecting with influencers and sharing content related to the jobs you’re looking for. If you’re an engineer, then share great innovations in your field. If you’re an aspiring fashion intern, break news from the runways and fashion shows. Many of them are streamed online during fashion week, and you can live tweet while they’re happening.
Be proactive. Look for jobs. Follow the accounts of companies, agencies and organizations that you’re interested in. Many of them have HR accounts; follow those, too. Also follow people working at those places. You never know who can help you.
Set up lists for certain hashtags. If you’re a graphic designer looking for a job, create a free Hootsuite account and set up lists for hashtags like #graphicdesigner or #designerjob. You may have to sort out some unrelated posts, but this can help.
Be responsive. Social media moves fast. If you’re applying for a job using social media, be ready to respond immediately. Set up alerts on your phone and/or email. Also, be prepared for the interviewing process to be fast.
A Site Made for Networking
Twitter isn’t a website that was created to be a networking tool—although I 100% believe that it should be. But LinkedIn is a different medium altogether. It was created with the purpose of linking professional contacts, and I am regularly surprised by how few job-searching friends of mine use it to actually job search.
After my Twitter experience, I continued to use Twitter to source job postings. I also turned to LinkedIn. I started to search for positions in Washington, DC—which was where I dreamt of moving after graduation. After a short time, I found a public relations job that seemed perfect for me. Not only was this job posted by an actual employer (versus the dreaded nameless HR department), but I could see his profile and background and contact him. All thanks to LinkedIn.
I sent a brief note detailing my interest and was contacted within the hour about setting up an interview. Again, like the Twitter posting, I had two interviews within the week. Only this time, I also had a job offer and start date that was in two weeks.
LinkedIn makes it easy for an employer to review your qualifications and experience. So if a potential employer contacts you via LinkedIn after you’ve networked with them, you know they’re interested because they’ve seen your resume. Your odds are better.
Complete your profile. Make sure you completely fill out that profile. It’s tedious, but it’s your online resume. Also, add a photo. It feels like you’re hiding when you don’t.
Add contacts. Make sure you add people you know and those you’ve interacted with. Many people don’t like being bombarded with requests on LinkedIn when they’ve never met you. If you’re really interested in connecting with someone, send them a personalized note with the invite letting them know why you’re reaching out.
Again, be proactive. Search for opportunities. Update your profile to let your connections know that you’re job searching. Don’t expect things to come to you.
The final step is the exact same as my recommendation for Twitter…
Be responsive. As you can see, both of the hiring processes I highlighted were extremely fast-paced. You must make yourself available.
One common factor with all social media, especially the more personal (and public) platforms like Twitter and Instagram, is the need to keep it clean. Even if you’re not applying via Twitter, make sure you present yourself professionally and competently. You should absolutely still inject personality, but if you’re posting anything you would be embarrassed about your current or future employer seeing, don’t do it.
Finally, consider creating a simple website that allows you to tell employers about yourself and also consolidate your online presence. For example, if you connect with someone via Twitter, they can go to the website in your profile and see your LinkedIn account (and therefore your resume). I recommend about.me for simplicity.
For additional tips, check out these resources:
Gayane Margaryan is the Online Communications Associate for African Wildlife Foundation, where she manages social media and online content strategy. She holds degrees in Public Relations and Political Science from the University of Florida. When she’s not obsessing over social media white papers, you can find her trying to calm her mind at yoga, arm-barring at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (when yoga doesn’t work) or on the water outside of the city (in which case, she doesn’t want to be found). You can connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn and on her website.