Welcome to Job Search 2.0. In today's challenging economy, employers aren't waiting for you to click on an online job listing or drop your application into their inbox.
"A résumé is not enough any more" even if you post it on all the right websites, says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career, and a promoter of what she calls "disruptive" job hunting.
Hiring managers scroll through hundreds of profiles a week on LinkedIn.com, the social networking site with a professional bent. That means that job seekers need to be aggressive about building their own distinctive brands and promoting them on networking sites as well as in blogs and e-mail.
Creating a personal brand
When you build, the trick is to highlight personal details that could connect you to recruiters or raise your profile. If applying for accounting jobs, for example, don't assume your passion for playing piano is irrelevant – it could paint you as a patient, creative and disciplined.
"You have to be willing to show who you are," says Shara Senderoff, founder of InternSushi.com, a website for people searching for internships that allows users to create profiles that may be browsed by potential employers.
The idea is not to multiply the number of social networking accounts, however. It is to use the social tools on the Web to leverage and promote key details about yourself.
That's what Margaret Jung, a New York University film student, did when she started looking for a summer internship. Last November, she uploaded a one-minute animated video onto InternSushi.
"I grew up learning that promises and deadlines are two of the most important things to keep," she says in the video. It became one of the website's most popular profiles, garnering 1,500 clicks. It also led to a dozen interviews, and eventually an internship at Mark Gordon Co., a Los Angeles-based film producer.
Even less technically savvy folks can start at LinkedIn. Use your profile to anticipate and answer key questions before recruiters ask them: What do you love to do? How can your passion be turned into something that can make or save money for a business? What do you want to do in the future?
Develop an e-mail signature with a link to a personal blog or website. Use those spaces to present articles about your topic of interest or attractive images of your visual work.
When venturing into social media, be sure to understand the privacy features of each site. Facebook and Google+ allow users to assign their online friends to different groups and prevent some groups from seeing particular personal content.
Use Twitter to establish legitimacy in your field. You can follow and retweet experts, and you can use your tweets to highlight articles and developments of interest to people in your chosen industry.
"We follow people who are authentic," says J.T. O'Donnell, a workplace consultant and founder of Careerealism.com. "When you really care about a subject, your passion comes through."
Be personal, but not too personal
Here are some tips for introducing personal information in a way that could enhance your job-hunting prospects.
- Details that illustrate your relatable interests, like marathon running or an interest in Web design, are good to put out front. They create an authentic image of you, and they may touch on areas where you’ll unexpectedly meet recruiters.
- Twitter and Facebook should be used as spaces to show a deep passion for your career choice. Frequent fanboy tweets about Lady Gaga are not going to convince anyone that your passion is your career; leave those for your personal circles.
- If you are on Facebook and you choose to keep it separate from your professional life, that’s fine, but don’t forget that friends and family often offer good professional connections too. Join groups that reflect your career interests and post some status updates that relate to your chosen field.
- Consider keeping multiple Twitter accounts. Your “MichaelJacksonFan” screen name might give you credibility with pop music fans, but it could turn off recruiters. Finally, don’t be afraid to walk away from your device. Sometimes old fashioned in-person networking is the ticket to your next job.
Ann Rafalko was a Web editor with a blog about gardening and a passion to match. She found her dream job at a charity dinner, when a casual conversation with another guest turned into an on-the-spot job offer. The other guest turned out to be Gregory Long, the president of the New York Botanical Garden, and Ms. Rafalko is now the organization's online content director.
"I have the best job in the world now," Ms. Rafalko says. And her casual conversation with Mr. Long? It was about Web branding.