Find Your Next Gig with Social Media

(Nan Palmero)

This content is provided courtesy of USAA.

If you're looking for a new job, you've probably updated your resume and cover letters and are busily submitting them to online posting sites, job banks and employment agencies. But according to the experts, only a small percentage of new hires come through these traditional routes.

In this challenging job market, you may want to rethink your strategy. Consider tapping into social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, that offer access to some jobs that are never officially advertised.

Linking In to Opportunities

LinkedIn helps you stay updated on former colleagues, but its true power lies in connecting users with the contacts of their contacts -- and beyond -- for career opportunities.

"LinkedIn is a game-changer," said Harry Urschel, an information technology (IT) industry recruiter based in Eden Prairie, Minn., and author of The Wise Job Search blog. "It allows users to network in ways previously impossible and provides advanced tools to scout opportunities that would have been nearly impossible previously," he said.

Getting Started

Create your profile with a complete job and education history and a professional photo. Pepper your profile headline and description with job-related keywords to improve your rankings, says Nichole Santoro, social media curator with Desert Rose Design, a digital marketing firm in Chicago.

Need ideas? Look at the LinkedIn profiles for peers you respect to get ideas for the keywords, language and tone.

LinkedIn To-Do List

  • After you've created an online persona, invite current and former colleagues to join your personal network.
  • Give and ask for recommendations from former colleagues. These can help tell the story of who you are and what you've done better than any resume.
  • Visit the LinkedIn job board to locate job openings that match the information you've included in your profile.
  • Set up email alerts so that LinkedIn can keep you informed of new job opportunities that may be a match.
  • Visit "Groups," search for ones that match your professional interests and join a few.
  • Use the advanced search box to research companies by location, job title, name and other criteria to uncover local employers that use your skills and check their website for job listings.

Work Your Network

When you find an interesting job opening, be proactive. Search by company name to find anyone in your extended network who works there. Then introduce yourself with a personalized invitation, mentioning the colleague or group you have in common.

Next step: Inquire about the company.

  • What's it like to work there?
  • What is the company culture?
  • What tips might help you get noticed in a job search?

After making a connection, ask for other peers who might have unique insight into the job you're pursuing.

To beef up your approach, use the telephone. "It's outside of a lot of people's comfort zones, but a phone call to introduce yourself is more effective than sending an email," Urschel said. "Keep it brief and concise in your request to learn about the company, and usually you'll get help from the other person."

Tweet Power

Twitter is a great way to tap unseen job opportunities. A microblogging site, it allows users to "tweet" 140-character messages. Twitter has become the place to post otherwise unpublished job openings, "especially when a company needs to hire very quickly," said Lauren Young, whose company, Freshly Baked Communications, leads social media seminars in Chicago.

Twitter To-Do List

  • For a basic job search, simply type in keywords for job skills, position, location -- or company name at Twitter's homepage, using the hashtag symbol, #, before key terms. This will fetch the most relevant results.
  • Pick a professional Twitter handle, enter a brief business and personal bio, and upload a photo. Then, tweet 20-30 times before you begin to follow others.
  • Begin "following" some executives or employees at target companies. Reply to their posts with your own comments, and a few astute observations may get you on that person's radar.
  • As with LinkedIn, begin building a relationship with a private message to inquire about the company.

Career Building with Blogging

Many professionals have succeeded in building their networks and reputation through blogging, but this is not a strategy to take lightly. It takes vision, time and commitment to maintain a blog. Done properly, it can raise your influence and visibility in your field.

But if you fail to create the right voice or do not dedicate time developing content regularly, it can send the signal that you do not follow through on your commitments.

Offer thoughtful insights on industry news, post links to interesting and pertinent information and think about what will make people take notice.

  • Create new content. "When posting industry news, for example, at least add your opinion or other original commentary," Young said.
  • Link your Twitter profile, blog and LinkedIn account together, and be sure to include the web addresses on your resume.
  • Watch for local professional events that will allow you to meet new peers. Instead of carrying your resume to these events, consider a computer-printed business card that includes your contact info and the web address of your LinkedIn profile.

Don't Wait

Finally, be sure to build a professional network on social media before you need it. If you wait until you lose your job before you begin to build your network, you'll be behind the eight-ball when it comes to networking for a new position.

Protect Yourself

What's your online presence like? Google yourself to get a glimpse. Chances are, a potential new boss will scope you out online before hiring. A few common-sense precautions while job hunting include:

  • Assume a potential boss will attempt to view your non-business social media forays. Many companies are now routinely conducting what amounts to a "social media background check." And because many companies don't want to risk violating someone's privacy or hiring laws, third-party companies like Social Intelligence are popping up to provide this service to hiring departments.
  • Make your Facebook account private. Candidates have lost job opportunities because of photos or language they shouldn't have used on Facebook. A good rule of thumb is never to post anything you wouldn't want your mother or current boss to see.
  • Also take heed: Much posted on social media sites becomes a permanent record that others can easily find. You want to make sure your posts tell the right story. For example, Facebook's new Timeline feature is designed to display your life's highlights with the scroll of a mouse, making it much easier to scan one's postings spanning literally years, if not decades.

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