As blogged about previously, I have mentioned how very important it is that you 'sanitize' your online presence and make sure anything that you have posted on the web is within the realm of acceptable to prospective employers. Many actually use services that collect and aggregate social online information when considering applicants for positions, in order to get a sense of the person. This is a warning to the weekend social party animal that posts drinking photos online... this could be the reason why you aren't getting any job offers! (Believe me, people do post that kind of stuff on there- I've seen it!)
While taking steps to maintain a certain amount of professionalism, even within your social circle, can feel limiting, the rewards of fully utilizing social networks to their fullest is still pretty darned amazing.
Consider this: 70% of all people find jobs through someone they know. It is critical that you build your connection base.
Think of your job search in terms of you being a spider, and you are spinning a web. It grows ever bigger all the time. You'll be building your social network in the same way- eventually, you'll snare viable job prospects through the solid filaments of this web, with those filaments being people that you know!
Don't get me wrong, I am not a social media expert, but have really come to appreciate the power of how networking can positively impact job seeker's searches from hearing so many client success stories.
Everyone has to make their own determination on which networks to invest time and energy into, and certainly, if you subscribe to them all, it can end up being tedious going in and updating each network. Plus, the people that you connect to might take offense of being asked to link up with you via five or more different networks.
Some of the major networks to consider include LinkedIn.com, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace to name a few. There are others like Naymz and Plaxo as well. Each of these have different positive attributes that can work in your favor for a job search, so let's review each:
1) LinkedIn.com - this is certainly a mainstay for most business people. Essentially a way to have an on-line resume, LinkedIn goes far beyond that single purpose. You can build your online connections there by connecting with colleagues, friends, groups and conversely, research through your own networks the people you really want to connect with on a job search. Example: If I was applying for a job at Microsoft, I would type in the search box, under ("People") Microsoft, and the search will pop up everyone who is employed at Microsoft who is on LinkedIn. You can easily find someone in your target department- the next step is asking for an informational interview. Other benefits of LinkedIn include asking and posting recommendations from supervisors, colleagues, and clients - a great way to bolster your credentials, as well as becoming an online expert in your field by answering questions pertaining to that area.
The main point is that if a prospective employer is going to Google you, LinkedIn would be an extremely helpful online network to have them learn more about you.
2) Twitter- I've had challenges with Twitter (including delayed messages) but the usefulness of this tool is to be able to broadcast out to the people you are connected to specific requests. You could post "Does anyone know someone in the purchasing department at Microsoft?" as an example, and you never know who knows whom out there, and someone in the network can re-tweet back the desired contact name. People who tweet on this network can also announce job openings, and breaking news. Example: Someone was aboard the US Airways jet that landed on the Hudson and within seconds of landing, had tweeted about the situation, and it went like wildfire across the world via Twitter. The instantaneousness of Twitter can help position you to be able to jump on opportunities as soon as they are made available. The adage of 'the early bird gets the worm' couldn't be truer!
3) Facebook/MySpace- These are more social and mundane sites, but you never know how things may unfold in terms of jobs. I maintain a Facebook site myself, and keep my content to the 'sanitized' personal level (i.e.: Went for an 8-mile hike) but at the same time, within my network of about 280 people, I've gotten a lot of resume writing clients... people feel that social connection but they aren't afraid to look at me in the business context. Content is constantly under evaluation, and if I were to post something goofy, that might call into question my professionalism, integrity or character. It's great to share the task of going about our lives on a daily basis, but keeping it contained to within professional parameters can also help bolster your personal brand and image.
Some interesting developments, however, is how employers are tapping into these networks to even be proactively contacting candidates. A recent article on the New York Times News Service (credit to Julie Weed), mentioned that some hiring companies are using services such as Appirio or Jobvite to interface with the social media networks, conduct searches for prospective candidates, and then contact qualified individuals, even if they are gainfully employed.
This is a great new application for recruiters to harness the power of social networks but at the same time, the importance of having a consistent and professional social and business image is underscored even more! Employers appreciate the fact that this accelerates the personal referral process and allows them access to an even wider pool of candidates through each contact's connections in that network.
If you've been loathe to take on social networking, you need to have a reality check. This is the heart of how a lot of jobs are being offered or discovered, and it is a powerful tool when managed professionally.