One of the most important factors you probably aren't considering in your job hunt is how important it is to influence what people you do not know think of you. What? You need to worry about people you don't know? Absolutely—it's probably the most overlooked job-search step you aren't doing anything about.
Of course, there is a catch: your goal is to increase the number of people who know, like, and trust you. You should identify people who do not know you and make a concerted effort to change that.
Who should be your first targets? People who work for companies where you would like to work. Identify people who have the chance to influence hiring decisions at those organizations. First, list five to 10 companies where you don't seem to have many contacts, and make it your mission to create lists of five to 10 people in each organization who are accessible enough to reach.
Luckily, social media tools make it very easy to hone in on exactly the right contacts. Once you have your companies listed, go directly to LinkedIn and see if the company has a page. If it does, you could hit the jackpot. LinkedIn will show you your immediate contacts who have ties to the company as well as the second-degree connections you may ask for introductions. Additionally, it will highlight how many employees that organization has on LinkedIn. Click through your second-degree contacts list to see who connects you to the people you want to meet, and choose your closest contacts and those you think are most likely to have a strong connection with your target audience. Then, proceed to ask your friend to make an introduction.
Be clear about why you want to meet the person in question. Think about compelling reasons he or she should want to know you. How can you be a resource for him or her? What information do you have that can be helpful, or who do you know whom could be of interest to your target contact? Be sure to write a compelling reason for the introduction, and make sure it does not include the fact that you're looking for a job at the organization.
While LinkedIn can provide a plethora of easy contacts, other social networks are especially useful when you don't have a lot of great intermediaries to connect you with people you want to know. On LinkedIn, be sure to check out the Groups feature to connect with new people in your field of interest. Using Twitter, you can find people, follow them, and engage with them directly without any pressure. Use tools such as Listorious.com and WeFollow.com to identify people on Twitter. On Google+, use the "Find People" feature (in the Circles tab) or follow the "Communities" tab to identify individuals and groups to follow.
Once you find new people you'd like to meet, follow them and make a point to keep a close eye on their updates. On Twitter, retweet (forward information to your followers) from people you want to know better. If they write blogs or are active on different social media tools, be sure to find and connect there as well. Leave smart comments on their blogs, ask questions, and engage with them via the open networks, such as Google+ and Twitter. You'll make it impossible for them to not notice you.
That said, be sure you don't cross the line between interested networking contact and stalker. Be considerate and interested; do not tweet your contacts every hour, obsessively comment on their blog posts, or respond to their every Facebook post the minute they appear on the screen. If you authentically engage with people about the topics that interest them (which should also be your areas of expertise), it shouldn't be difficult to forge an online, professional relationship that could lead to a phone conversation or in-person meeting.
Make a point to influence and connect with people who don't know you—yet—and you may find it is the most important thing you do to land a job.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.