With unemployment rates on the rise, companies can afford to be more selective about the people they hire. It's becoming more common for recruiters and hiring managers to value a candidate's presence on popular social networks, in addition to traditional qualifications such as a strong resume and interview skills. Job seekers who want a competitive edge in this market are turning to alternative online channels to catch the attention of potential employers and find new job openings before the general public does.
If you want to expand your job search efforts to include popular social sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, here are some beginners' tips for managing your personal brand and uncovering the hidden opportunities that these networks can offer:
As explained by certified career counselor Susan Guarneri, "With more and more employers and recruiters turning to LinkedIn to research candidates for their job openings, building and maintaining a professional, credible and persuasive LinkedIn profile is no longer optional if you want to fast-forward your job search." LinkedIn is rapidly becoming a vital tool for job seekers, in all stages of their careers.
- Make sure your profile is complete and up-to-date. Upload a recent picture of yourself (preferably a professional-looking headshot) to solidify your personal brand and help your connections "put a face with a name" when they are searching for someone with your skill set or expertise.
- Include a short, easy-to-read personal summary that highlights your accomplishments and details the types of opportunities you are looking for (a new job, networking connections, etc.).
- Participate in LinkedIn industry and job search groups, and respond to questions posted on LinkedIn Answers to demonstrate your professional knowledge and make new connections.
If you already have a Facebook profile that you use to keep in touch with friends and family, you need to decide whether you want to also use it for professional networking. If the answer is yes, you'll need to make some changes that ensure it gives a favorable impression to potential employers. That means you should remove any photos or comments that would be considered not "work safe." Alternately, if you don't want to use Facebook for professional networking, you should adjust your account's privacy settings so that you won't have to worry about employers stumbling across your profile.)
- Join your school's alumni page in order to reconnect with former classmates and make new connections. You can search for your school here.
- Add yourself as a "fan" of companies that you're interested in learning more about. Many companies, including accounting firm Ernst & Young, use Facebook to connect with potential job applicants.
Twitter isn't just for staying in touch with friends and family – it's also a fantastic networking and research tool. Get the inside scoop on companies that you're interested in by networking with their employees and recruiters. You can also learn more about a particular company by following the updates from its official Twitter profile.
- To find Twitter users in your industry, check out directories such as ExecTweets, JustTweetIt, WeFollow and Twellow.
- If you have a LinkedIn profile or online portfolio, include a link to it in the bio section of your Twitter profile so other people can easily learn more about you.
- To find job listings on Twitter, try using the Twitter search engine and typing in a desired job title, or follow an account that posts the latest jobs on Twitter. You can also find job listings by searching for the following hashtags: #jobseeker, #hiring or #jobs.
- Another way to find employment opportunities on Twitter is to follow job boards, such as CareerCast.com's Twitter page.
Online social networking can help to position you for the next phase in your career by enhancing your personal brand and exposing you to opportunities that you might not have come across otherwise. While the tips we've presented here are good starting points, there are many more things you can do to get the most out of your online job search efforts. More advice on networking, online or otherwise, can be found in CareerCast.com's networking section or at Jumpstart Social Media.