Finding a Job - Using Social Media: Intro

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According to a 2009 Career Builder survey, 45% of employers use social media to screen potential candidates and this percentage is growing. These employers are looking to see your communication skills, professional demeanor, how well rounded you are and many other skills and assets you may possess. Therefore, one of the most essential skills for the 21st century job seeker is an understanding of how to use social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs strategically. 'Social media' refers broadly to forms of communication and networking designed around the social interaction enabled by Web 2.0 technologies.  Social media technologies can lend a higher degree of specificity to your job search while broadening its scope.

Applying Social Media to Your Job Search

Social media allows you to advertise your personal “brand” and to demonstrate your skills, values, and professionalism.  In a technological world, there are an infinite number of creative ways to do this.  Remember that your branding efforts must work together as a cohesive and coherent ‘ad campaign’ that highlights why you are a great candidate. 

You can also use social media to establish credibility. Tweeting, blogging and commenting about things you know builds up your credibility online. When an employer searches, you want them to find a knowledgeable individual who can fit well into their company. This passive form of job searching is what you should continue to build even when you are gainfully employed. It’s important that you continue to build your network so that it is there for you when you need it.

Step One: Find Your Brand

"Personal branding" refers to a broad set of options for marketing your name, personality, expertise, style – in short, your "brand."  Personal branding is an ongoing process of marketing yourself to others in rich, interactive ways. Like most components of the job search, start by looking inwards.  A coherent, explicit understanding of your career goals as well as your strengths, passions, and specialties is your best tool in developing a personal brand. To find the right brand for you, you need to focus on what makes you unique.

If you have difficulty determining your personal brand, here is an exercise to help.

Personal Brand Values Exercise:

  • Identify 5 product brands you distinctly like, and write them down. (e.g. Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola etc.)
  • Write specific attributes of the brand that you like.
  • Circle or identify common themes across all five brands.
  • These traits that come up repeatedly are your personal brand values.
  • Jot down a few ways you could advertise these personal brand values to advance your job search.

Once you have identified your brand, you will be able to apply it to your job search. Personal branding has a lot to do with others' needs, and how your specific skills, values, personality, and experience fit those needs.  In short, personal branding is about conveying internal characteristics to satisfy external needs.

Step Two: Update Your Traditional Job Search Documents

While the social media job search is rapidly growing, there is still a lot of value in the traditional job search. You need an up-to-date resume that reflects your skills and experience and you need to stay focused on meeting employers and alumni face-to-face at information sessions and informational interviews. These components of the job search do not disappear, but now need to be balanced and supported with an online presence that reflects the real you.

In taking a look at your resume, cover letters and business cards, consider whether they match your brand. Do the fonts, layout and content reflect the key words that make up your brand? In addition to conveying your brand, many people are listing their blog, website, Twitter handles and LinkedIn URLs on their business cards and resumes. Consider whether this is a good option for you. Remember that if you list these items on your traditional job search documents, you must commit to keeping them active.

Step Three: Promote Your Brand Using Social Media

Social media widely expands your potential network. Instead of only having your friends and family to reach out to as contacts, social media allows you to see the friends and family of all of your connections. You can see who they are, where they work and how you know them. Social media also allows you to make a more personal connection with a potential employer who may not recruit on campus or be near your current location. By following them on social media and interacting with them, you are able to get their attention in a way that you wouldn’t previously be able to.

In a more passive way, with employers searching for candidates before they interview, you may be eliminated from an applicant pool before you even had a chance because you could not be found or because the information they found did not impress them. Managing your online brand ensures that an employer will find you and enough of your great qualities that they will want to see you in person for an interview.

It's crucial not to "saturate the market" with an overwhelming number of different methods of personal branding.  Some people might find it more effective to make a concerted effort in only one or two strictly professional social networks, whereas others might focus their efforts on an industry-specific blog that highlights their specialties.  Take the time to get familiar with the more professional social networks such as LinkedIn before moving on to the next new technology. With each new thing that you try, always remember your strategy – to convey your skills and values to potential employers and networking contacts. If you can’t achieve that on a certain network, don’t feel bad about moving on to something else that works for you and makes good use of your time.

Step Four: Maintain Your Network

It’s important to continue using social networking sites and in-person networking even after you have secured a job. First, you should maintain these connections because you may be able to give back to another job-seeker either through sharing information or direct leads. If there weren’t generous people like this online, you wouldn’t have been as successful in your job search. In addition, you never know when you may need that network again. Maintaining throughout your career ensures that you have it available whenever you may need it. You don’t want to re-build your network from scratch every time you decide you want to move to a new position.

For more detailed information about social networks along with tips and tricks, see our Advanced Social Media Tipsheet.