How to Use Social Media to Improve Your Career

For a competitive edge, learn how to market yourself online.

By SHARE

Today's guest post is by Sharon Reed Abboud, author of All Moms Work: Short-Term Career Strategies for Long-Range Success:

Competing for a job in today’s economy can seem like a losing battle. Dozens, if not hundreds, of qualified candidates apply for most of the advertised vacancies that are posted online. Savvy job seekers at the cutting edge use social networking sites—such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—to network, make connections, and stand out in the bustling crowd of job applicants.

[In Pictures: 12 Money Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes]

John J. Fischesser, II, an attorney in St. Louis, MO said he used Facebook as the key strategy for landing his current position. Fischesser practiced law in New Orleans for six years and then decided to return to St. Louis, where he had attended law school. He used Facebook to track down and find the contact information for all of his law school classmates and the other attorneys that he had come into contact with while at law school. He sent out his resume to these contacts.

“I asked them to keep their eyes and ears open for any possible positions and gave them permission to share my resume with anyone they felt would appreciate it,” Fischesser said. “One of my colleagues got my resume in front of the managing partner of her firm, he interviewed me, and the rest, as they say—is history.”

By using LinkedIn, Chris Perry, founder of Career Rocketeer, a career search and personal branding blog: www.careerrocketeer.com, landed his other current position as an associate brand manager at Reckitt Benckiser (RB). Perry said he used LinkedIn and LinkedIn Groups to identify brand managers in his target companies and request informational interviews.

“I would send/forward them a request for a few minutes of their time to discuss their career, their company/culture, etc. I would never ask them for a job, simply to ask them to talk about themselves. In these conversations, you naturally will have the opportunity to talk about yourself, and it's these opportunities that allow you to make a connection and share your job search efforts,” Perry explained. “At the end, I would ask how they broke into their career or if they had any advice for someone trying to break into that career/company. I had multiple people share advice and even offer to help. One of these interviews led to the official interview for my current role.”

[For more money-saving tips, visit the U.S. News Alpha Consumer blog.]

Sarah Siewert, an account executive at KemperLesnik, a Chicago public relations agency, said she used Twitter to land a job in Chicago this past summer. Siewert was living and working in PR at a nonprofit in Lansing, MI but was interested in transitioning to the agency side and living in Chicago.

“While living in Lansing, I had a limited network in Chicago so I leveraged my Twitter network to connect with PR professionals there. In June, I started following my now boss because I found out we were both attending the same conference and I knew she was from the Chicago area. Before the conference, we tweeted back-and-forth a couple of times and then were able to meet during the conference at a Tweetup (in- person meet-up of people who met on Twitter). It was one of those funny moments where you try to identify each other based on the tiny avatar photo. We connected, had a great conversation and I mentioned I was looking for a job in Chicago,” Siewert explained. “After the conference, I sent her an e-mail and she replied saying they were looking to fill a position and asked me to come in for an interview. Less than a month later, I was packing up and moving to Chi-town!”

Siewert added: “I truly believe my online presence got me to Chicago. I was applying to other agencies, but it's all about who you know - even online.”

According to Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency, and president of Human Business Works, “On the cutting edge of trends are the people who are using the social web to build relationships before they need them. Job searches work so much better when you start them before you need a job.”

But while many people report job hunting success stories by using social networking, some people say they feel intimidated and confused about how to use social networking to their advantage while job searching. J.T. O’Donnell, founder/president of Careerrealism.com said, “The average job seeker doesn’t understand how to build a strategy for leveraging these tools, which results in them spending hours online and getting zero results.”

One of the key strategies, according to O’Donnell, is to use social media to compile a proactive list of companies that the job seeker would like to work for through extensive online research on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Google Alerts, and opinion sites (for example: Glassdoor.com).

“It seems counter-intuitive to be selective in this fashion during a recession, but honestly, it gets people hired faster. Why? Because they then monitor the social media usage of these companies and work directly to connect with them,” O’Donnell said. “Ultimately, building relationships with key players and networking themselves into the group that can get them hired. Instead of wasting hours on the Internet, their time is spent on high-payoff social media activities. The result is a job seeker who leverages social media to gather the info they need to connect with companies on their list in a way that can help them make a good impression and start a trust-building networking relationship.”

Sarah Smith-Robbins, the Director of Emerging Technologies at Kelley Executive Partners, the executive education arm of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, where she serves as a member of the marketing faculty, added: “The key to using these social applications to find a job is to remember that all the best jobs are found, not through the classifieds, but through the people you know. What networks like LinkedIn and Twitter allow us to do is make genuine connections with people who have the ability to hire for the jobs we want.”

[Visit the U.S. News My Money blog for the best money advice from around the web.]

Smith-Robbins offered five tips for using social networks efficiently to find a job:

  • Be yourself. Use your profile and your updates to share what you know and what you do. Don't sterilize your personality. Be memorable and helpful.
  • Connect to the people you already know. It's easy to focus on making new connections but you should establish your existing offline network first. This makes it easier for people who already know you to connect you to others.
  • Participate in discussions. Post thoughtful questions and stay engaged when people answer them. Show off your expertise in a way that can be seen collaborative rather than behaving like a "know-it-all" or a walking commercial. If you share your ideas people will come knocking on your door to find out if you can help them.
  • Set networking goals. Poke around and find the companies and people you want to work with then see who you're connected with who might lead you to them
  • Join groups related to what you do. Find out what conversations the people you want to connect with are engaged in and then join in thoughtful and useful contributions.
  • Brogan added, “I think that where people have a lot to learn and expand upon is the ‘inbound marketing’ side of job searching. Make a resume page on your blog. Make a bunch of posts that give people a good feeling of what’s inside you.”

    Job seekers need to keep up with trends and changes in technology to be on the cutting edge and compete for jobs successfully. The easiest way to get started is the read the “How To” and Help sections of each site that you are using. Read the news media and blogs that are relevant to your social media sites. Also, be sure to “follow” the site you are using for the latest news and upgrades. For example, follow the Twitter feed and join the Facebook fan page.

    “A proactive job search is best completed via social media,” O’Donnell said. “But, if the user doesn’t know how to leverage them, then it is just a waste of time.”