No one needs to tell you that in today’s ever-changing digital age, a job prospect who can use social media is bound to come out over one who can’t. This is an average, of course – there are still some companies that prize the “old-fashioned way” over everything else, but for the most part, those fluent in social media are both better prospects for employers and have a better chance of finding the job they want in the first place.
Ensuring that you’re proficient at social media in a job or marketing sense is beyond the scope of this article. However, if you have no idea how to use any of the major platforms we will discuss below – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – we suggest you take an hour or two and familiarize yourself with these platforms. Note that you don’t have to set up accounts on your own; you can simply skim through a few tutorials and accounts to get a feel for how it all works.
If you’re already fairly conversant in the ways of social media, then you’ll be well suited to the topic of this guide: how to use social media specifically to guide your job hunt. Throughout this guide, we will examine this from two slightly different angles:
Along the way, we will discuss how to conduct research and connect with people who really matter, how to keep your job search and online profiles confidential and clean, specific ways to use each type of social media, and how to create an overall system that will help you go from zero to amazing new job in less time than you thought possible.
Let’s be clear with one thing right up front: while social media is all about instant gratification, using it for your job search still won’t guarantee instant results. Finding a job you love and want to keep over the long haul isn’t going to come easy just because you know how to tweet like a boss.
However, knowing how to use these tools can help you cut to the chase of which jobs are worth having. In using them, you can check job postings you find online or on a company’s website against the legitimacy of the company, its culture and the other employees who work there. Using social media to check those boxes will give you a much more well-rounded idea of the company than simply “taking their word” for who they are on a heavily branded and curated website.
Moreover, using social media can speed up your job search in that it enables you to actually talk with decision-makers at companies you’d like to work for. If you’re actively engaged in the hunt, that can mean reaching out to employees at a particular company through LinkedIn, or tweeting directly to a decision-maker through Twitter. It may involve messaging someone on Facebook to ask for an introduction, or tossing off a well-timed comment on a business’s Instagram account to encourage them to look at yours, which might contain a portfolio.
Really, the opportunities are almost endless. In order to cut through the confusion and chatter you’ll find on the web – which offers about a thousand competing ideas for every second you spend on Google – we will offer specific ideas about how to use each of the main platforms we profile here. First up: let’s talk about how social media as a whole can help you find jobs you’re looking for and forge the right connections in your industry, both of which will give you a better chance of becoming the employee (and overall badass) you want to be.
The amount of pure information that exists on social platforms is staggering. Social use doubles every two years, and by 2020 will reach 44 trillion Gigabytes. Facebook users send 31.25 million messages a minute, while Twitter’s combined user base generates 347,222 tweets in the same amount of time. LinkedIn’s 347 million registered users view 17,361 profiles every minute, and Instagram users post 48,611 photos like 1.73 million every 60 seconds.
That’s a lot of activity, and has two major – and essentially competing – results. Firstly, you have a mammoth amount of information from which to glean information about your job search. Second, and less hopefully, that is so much data through which to sort. It can feel completely overwhelming, like looking for a needle in a haystack the size of Planet Earth. Many people get so discouraged by the difficulty of the process that they simply give up and go back to responding to Craigslist ads … which often don’t pan out, as you no doubt already know.
Instead of giving up, we advise you just learn to use social media intelligently. While we’ll take a deeper dive into how this works for each individual platform later in this guide, for now let’s just focus on the basics. Your research should involve a few moves:
After fear over the deluge of social media posts and feelings of helplessness when it comes to sorting through them, this last step causes the bulk of the consternation people feel over using social media. There’s no way my account is good enough to show an employer, they think. I’ll never get a job that way.
Well, yes and no. If your Instagram account consists only of puppy pictures, then you definitely shouldn’t show it off (unless you’re applying for a position as a dog groomer). On the other hand, even a reasonably sized Twitter feed or business Facebook page can demonstrate your ability to use social media and provide an alternate platform on which to engage with potential employers, whose email addresses you almost certainly will not have access to.
Plus, by following those companies consistently, you can learn more about them so you seem more knowledgeable if you should be offered an interview, and you’ll have your finger on their pulse in case openings should be implied or overtly advertised.
So if you want to work at a certain company or have seen a job posting specifically related to working there, you can head to social media, search for that company, and see who pops up. Anyone in the department you want to work in – or even in other departments – is a good prospect for someone to talk to. We’ll flesh this out more fully in the next section.
One of the best ways to increase your chances of getting a job is to start talking with people who can actually help you get one. This is a difficult and scary prospect for people used to applying to online job ads and relying on personal introductions from friends. Going out and finding people to talk to on your own can feel a lot like cold calling. And unless you’re a professional salesman, chances are good you hate cold calling.
Well, take heart. When you use social media, you can reach out to people “cold” without having to invade their inbox or their phone line. It’s much easier for a person to keep track of your communication in social media, which tidily puts it all in one place for them (i.e. a message folder), and they can get back to you on their own time.
On LinkedIn you can send InMail (and even ask for introductions from people you know if you want to speak to those you don’t). On Twitter, you can send direct tweets to people to let them know you’re interested in chatting with them, or to share a thought about the industry. Private messages on Facebook make interaction very easy, while Instagram comments and direct messages give you informal and more formal ways of reaching out to people you like.
No matter which platform you decide to use – which will largely depend on the ones you’re already most comfortable with – there are ways to get someone’s attention, even if you don’t know them. Below we will explore in more detail how to use each platform to connect with people.
Of course, communicating with people isn’t the only benefit of social media. You can also use your profiles to highlight your own expertise, showcase your accomplishments, comment on industry-specific happenings of the day, and generally make yourself look like an appealing prospect by demonstrating technological fluency … even if you’re not applying for a job as social media manager. But in order to make sure you don’t set any traps for yourself, you must first ensure your job search confidentiality.
Searching for a job is a necessary task at certain points in your life, and every employer knows that their employees will very likely want to move on to greener pastures at some point. They’ve been there themselves, after all.
However, there’s a very real difference between knowing your employee may someday accept another position, and seeing that a current employee is actively soliciting job offers from other companies. The latter is more likely to lead to termination before you’re ready, or at least a de-investment in you. Unfortunately, if you were hoping for a promotion before you left to up the pay bump you’d receive at your next job, or wanted to part on good terms, this can seriously hamper things.
The obvious answer, as you already knew it was, is to keep your job search secret. Instead of advertising your intentions to the world in hopes of getting as many offers as possible, you’ve got to be strategic. Here are some dos:
The above are all perfectly safe activities that will keep you under the radar at your current job, while both making you a more appealing prospect to potential new employers and expanding your network.
Now here are some don’ts:
Regarding this last one, for instance, you’ll need to be aware of the difference between Instagram comments on posts (which everyone can see) and direct messages (which are private). Similarly, know that unless someone is following you on Twitter, any direct message you send is visible. Yes, you can tweet to someone specifically, but it will still show up on your feed.
We won’t spend any more time discussing these ideas below, so make sure you keep them in mind when it comes to all of our recommendations. Now we’re going to move on to how to use each platform in turn to the benefit of your job search.
LinkedIn is the most obvious social media platform for job seekers, simply because it is predicated on the foundation of giving professionals a way to use social to their benefit. Therefore, it’s one of the easiest ones to link up (haha) with your job search.
Briefly, let’s discuss how to update your LinkedIn profile so you look professional and well-established. First of all, your resume should be fully fleshed out. This includes a list of accomplishment for each job, volunteer opportunity, credential or school on your resume. You also need to upload a presentable picture. No booze, fully clothed, no one else in the picture, and a neutral background. You may also upload a header image if you like, though that’s not strictly necessary.
Fully fill out your summary, stating what you do now, what you bring to the companies you work with, why someone would want to hire you and two or three of your biggest accomplishments. Endorse other people so that they will endorse you (but only in a genuine way … don’t be fake or people won’t take you seriously). Lastly, you can ask for recommendations from specific people whom you know will speak highly of you.
When your profile is all shiny and new, you can start reaching out to people. Send messages to friends or former colleagues explaining that you’re looking for a job, and ask if they know of any openings that match your experience and background. Sure, this isn’t a fun thing to do, per se, but if you get even one response, it will help move you toward your goal.
If you’d like to speak to someone at a company you want to work for, but don’t know the person directly, you can ask for an introduction. This is actually a very simple move, requiring only that you have a LinkedIn connection between you and that person. If you don’t, you can ask the connection for an introduction to the 2nd-degree connection. If you’re really set on talking to someone, you can ask for an introduction to a 2nd-degree connection who knows someone further afield.
However creative you choose to get with LinkedIn, know that it is one of the best resources on the Internet for finding jobs and connecting with people who matter, so don’t disregard it.
While not as job-oriented as LinkedIn, Facebook still hosts a wealth of opportunities for job seekers. For one thing, it’s a great place to learn about changes in the industry and possible openings at specific companies. By following a company’s Facebook page, you can also learn about who the decision-makers are and what the company ethic is. In some cases, they may even advertise open positions directly.
Before you can reach out to these companies or apply for these positions, however, you need to make sure your Facebook profile is presentable. If you have a business page, great. This means you started a blog, company or other entity that would entitle you to a professional page. If you just have a personal profile, that’s still fine as long as it is centered on your work life and accomplishments rather than your cats and your Taylor Swift addiction.
Write a short, to-the-point bio that says what you do for a living, briefly explains your hobbies and interests, and highlights one or two reasons you’re a great employee. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this on a personal profile that your high school graduating class can see, then don’t use Facebook as a job seeking tool.
If you do, great. Now upload a professional-looking picture – though it can be slightly more relaxed than LinkedIn – and scatter a few posts about your job approach/successes between the family pics and the stats from your latest workout. At this point, you should have a relaxed but useful profile, which you can use to start messaging people you already know … or people you would like to know. Ask about job openings, display your expertise with targeted questions, and subtly make your availability known. If you’re a good prospect, you will eventually catch the attention of someone who matters, or be passed on until you do.
Twitter is less obviously designed for the job hunt, but is still very useful. It contains some of the most up-to-the-minute information on the web, in a huge variety of different industries. No matter what you do for a living, your interests are guaranteed to be represented there on Twitter.
Using it, however, is a little more challenging than Facebook or LinkedIn. As mentioned above, you can reach out to people by tweeting at them (which other people can see), or if you follow one another, you can tweet them directly (where no one else can see). Neither of these is a very reliable communication system, however, and it’s a rare person who has a Twitter account but neither Facebook nor LinkedIn. Therefore, it’s usually more productive to keep the private messages on other platforms and use Twitter to display your own thought leadership.
You can do this in myriad ways, but the simplest and most straightforward include:
As you use Twitter more and learn to streamline your system so you’re not spending all hours of the day trying to post, you’ll be able to branch out.
Instagram is of limited application to many job seekers. Because it is inherently so visual, it really doesn’t matter much to your search unless you’re in a visual field such as design, interior decoration, floral or something equivalent. If you do, of course, it’s a fantastic tool.
But even if you don’t, Instagram is a great place to get a feel for company culture. Most medium-sized and larger companies have Instagram accounts, where you can learn how they approach work, their basic views and the kind of personalities they’re looking for. Thus, it’s a great place to mine information before reaching out to decision-makers or applying for jobs.
Now, don’t get offended. Most millennials, and quite a few people in Generation Y, are guilty of certain online indiscretions. We don’t mean anything really bad … but not everything you’ve ever said or done is for public consumption, right? Think of that bikini pic in St. Barts, or the post about how much you haaaaaaaaaaaate ___________. Because frankly, you should never publicly hate anything; you never know who loves it.
That being the case, you might have to clean up your profiles a little bit. This is actually pretty easy. Trolling through the last hundred or so tweets is probably good enough. Ditto Instagram and Facebook posts. For LinkedIn, you really shouldn’t have anything inappropriate, but if you do … off it goes. Even if you’ve, say, written for edgy publications, make sure the resume line is squeaky clean.
If you’re really worried about your past, you should follow this guide to cleaning up your online presence. Too much to do yourself? Google “online reputation management” and find an expert to help you. The fees are usually pretty reasonable, especially when weighed against the chances that a potential employer will find dirt you really want to keep hidden.
Once you’ve cleaned up each profile and figured out the best ways to use each one, it’s time to create a system so that you can use them without simultaneously using a whole lot of brain space. The simplest way to do this is just commit to a certain number of posts or messages a day. Say, an Instagram post showcasing your work, 5 Facebook messages to people who might be able to help your job search, 2 tweets and 2 direct tweets, and 3 requests for introductions on LinkedIn.
Obviously you’ll need to create your own system based on what works for you, but these are ideas of goals you can set to help you get where you want to go. And having a system to which you answer is the best way to ensure you actually follow through with those goals each and every day, until you’ve landed that job … and beyond.
And beyond that, there’s not much more to say. For as long as it’s been around, social media has garnered a reputation as a vapid way to spend too many hours of the day, but it’s so much more than that. If you’ve been suffering from that mindset, it’s time to break free and learn what social can do for your career. If you’re already well aware of social media’s benefits, then take the time to implement the specific steps above. You might be surprised at how far just a few shifts in your approach can get you.
At the end of the day, when you’re looking for a job, you really have nothing to lose. Making connections with people who matter, cleaning up your profiles (which you really need an excuse to do anyway), and learning a valuable technological skill are all great reasons to up your targeted social media use right away. But the best reason of all is that it could truly help you land a job you love, and that right there is worth its weight in digital gold.
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