By John Boyd
Finding a new job can be difficult and nerve-racking, particularly in a slow economy. Social networking helps you bypass the anonymity that accompanies submitting your resume amongst thousands submitted for one job opening through an online site or recruiters or in response to a classified ad. Social networking can bring you closer to finding a job by allowing you to establish a relationship with the people who are looking to fill a job position or with friends, colleagues and peers who can otherwise give you an “in” or even a head start. You just may be able to get that great job faster by distinguishing and making yourself known earlier in the race - through the opportunities afforded through online social networking.
It’s not what you know, but who you know
It’s particularly true in tough times, whether you are looking for your next client or business deal or simply trying to find a new job, that it’s not what you know, but who you know. I got my last two jobs when someone I had worked with in the past contacted me about the job opportunities before they were listed anywhere else. Although I’d like to think I got the jobs because of what I knew, who I knew had a much greater impact on my finding out about the job and getting my foot in the door. The more real-world contacts you have, the better your chances of learning about new job opportunities. If you have ever been in the position of searching for someone to fill a job opening, you know that after a while, a huge stack of resumes can become blurred words on paper. Someone you have met or who happens to know someone you work with may stand out just a bit more.
Building a network of trusted contacts involves reaching out to former coworkers, former classmates, colleagues in your industry, fellow alumni and fellow association members. Online social networks provide an easy way to develop and solidify these contacts which can only help your job search. To the extent you need to change industries because of market forces, developing trusted contacts in other industries will greatly increase your chances of making a smooth transition into a new career.
Not all Online Contacts are Equal
Let’s face reality. Some online social contacts are close friends or former coworkers or otherwise trusted contacts, while other “online contacts” are people you’ve never met or even spoken to. You may be “LinkedIn” to more people you’ve never met than you have actually met or have some relationship with. Generally, having a contact is better than not having one, but it’s important to distinguish between those who know you and you can trust versus strangers you’ve never met.
Let Your Close Contacts Know You are Looking and Ask for Their Help
Leverage your close contacts whether it’s for providing advice, reviewing your resume (discussed below) or helping you get in the door. Since these people know you, they are more likely to understand which opportunities are a good match and also provide a reference for you to get you the interview. Using social networking, you can also reach out to your close contact’s contacts which are often easier to leverage then contacts who have no real connection to you. I’d recommend focusing on your closer contacts before trying to leverage your broader online contacts in this way.
Broadcast Your Skills and Strengths to Everyone Else
To engage a broader social networking audience, start by promoting yourself and your skills by initiating or participating in discussions, answering questions and taking other actions to let others within your online community understand who you are and what you bring to the table. You must establish yourself as a trustworthy, valuable participant before you can expect to leverage that online community to really help you find a job in a slow economy. During this process, you will begin to develop new contacts as you engage in these discussions. Once you’ve established credibility through your online comments and discussions – this will take time and effort – updating your status to “seeking new job” can sometimes trigger help from those now comfortable referring you to jobs.
Find One or More Contacts to Review your Resume
Yes, a standard resume is typically only one or two pages. And yours probably should not be any longer. Like all other conscientious job seekers, you’ve probably reviewed and revised it many times. However, having a second set of eyes carefully review your resume is still important. Why? It’s a dense document, and you may be your own worst proof reader because of your deep familiarity with the content. There are diminishing returns to reviewing a document many, many times - it becomes easier to gloss over glaring imperfections after several reads. Identify those in your social network who appear to be solid writers and good proof readers and ask them to review your resume. Offer to do the same for them. Having your contacts review your resume will sometimes remind them of possible job opportunities that could be a good fit. In any event, having a flawless resume is always a good start.
No Lampshades Worn Here
Keep in mind it’s important to keep your online image polished and professional if you wish to leverage it to find a new job. We’ve all heard the horror stories of party pics causing employment issues. And that was in a strong economy.
John Boyd is the CEO and founder of MeetingWave (www.MeetingWave.com), a free online tool for networking off-line for business, professional, or social purposes that allows its members to set up networking meetings that are open to people they have never met.