There are a lot of ways to get a job: online posting, traditional classifieds, the proverbial “getting out there and knocking on doors”, but the most successful strategy in terms of effort and return on investment is relying on your network. It’s going to be someone who heard something about an opening and thought of you that is likely to land you your next job.
Your network, your friends and family and other various connections, is your best resource. And we’re lucky to live in an age where that network can be as large as we need it to be. Using social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to expand and maintain that network is a great way to help your job search. It can also lead you to other cool stuff that isn’t related to work, too.
So what should you do? How can you use it? Most of you are already familiar with social platforms (especially Facebook), but there are other options for you out there. There are also some things you can do to make your network stronger, which will ultimately help you:
- Use the right tool. If you’re building your personal network, then Facebook is the place for you. If you’re looking to be informed about the world around you, then Twitter is probably your best bet. There are lots of reporters and media outlets that use Twitter as a quick way to spread the word about their reporting. There’s a social aspect to Twitter, too. If you are looking to develop a professional or business network, then LinkedIn is the place to be. If you are crafty or arty, then Pinterest is a good place for you to find inspiration or share your work. There are dozens of others, too, each with their own special niche and resident population.
- Don’t broadcast. Though often called “social media”, these online platforms are not much like traditional media. They’re a place for conversation, not broadcasting. Interactions are horizontal, not vertical. So don’t shout. Listen. Don’t just share. Participate. Comment. Like things. Share what you find interesting and be prepared to discuss it. This is not like watching a television show or movie, or reading a book. Social platforms are more like discussion around a dinner table, or the letters to the editor page in a newspaper (only much, much faster.)
- Don’t worry too much about your online presence. If you’re honest and transparent (but not too transparent–there are limits), then you should really have nothing to be ashamed of. Be kind, be genuine, and be honest, and you’ll be all right. Yes, people have done or said things online that spelled disaster for them professionally. Those people are rare. For the most part, we’ve all got one or two missteps online. They won’t sink you. In fact, a man who is famous for unconventional online behaviour is about to be sworn in as the president of the United States, so it seemingly hasn’t hurt his professional career.
- Don’t worry about frequency. There’s no secret sauce for online postings. You needn’t post every day. When you have something to say, say something. If you read something interesting, tweet it. If you have an important life update, take it to Facebook. Finish a course or get a new job? Update LinkedIn. Also, take a break when you need to. The internet is big and fast and can be overwhelming. If you need some time away, take it. It’ll still be there when you get back.
- Don’t use too many hashtags. They’re useful on certain platforms, and they don’t hurt anyone, but too many makes your comment hard to read.
- Don’t read the comments. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but know that there are people who love to get online and say nasty things about minorities, political opponents, and social movements. Don’t feed the trolls, and don’t be one. Try to ignore them; they probably won’t go away, but it’s better for you.
One thing that I want to underline here is that online is real life. Relationships that start or or exist mostly (or only) online are real relationships. All of the commenters and sharers are real people, and your relationships with them are real relationships. If you need help with something–a job search, for innstance–then let your network know. There’s no need to differentiate between “cyberspace” and “meatspace”. All of it can help you move forward.