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How Social Media can Impact your Job Search

Social media has proven to be the Internet trend of the 21st century. From the social sharing of Facebook to the micro-blogging of twitter, to the business network LinkedIn, Social media is vast becoming an integrated part of our lives.

With vacancies at an all time low, and hundreds of candidates applying for choice jobs, it’s not surprising that many job seekers turn to social media to hunt down and secure employment.

In the web industry – where social media plays such an integral role – the perfect job could be only a tweet away.

Don’t Job-Search, People-Search!

The old adage still rings true: the majority of jobs aren’t advertised. They’re filled by people in the employer’s network – professional already known and trusted. Social media gives you the unique opportunity to integrate yourself into an employer’s network, thereby increasing your chances of being offered a job.

First, narrow your search. Choose 5-7 companies you’d particularly like to work for. Concentrate your efforts on a few select companies, rather than spamming hundreds of inboxes.

Next, find each company’s website. From that site, link up to their social networking accounts (usually on Twitter and Facebook). You can start reading and commenting on their posts and tweets if you like.

Research key people within the company – the people you’d love to work for, and find their social networking accounts. Often, they’re linking from the main company website, or you can Google their names and titles to see if they have a blog or Facebook page.

Once you find them, start talking to them – don’t ask for a job, just start commenting on their blog posts, asking questions in their twitter feed, and even sending emails. Don’t bombard them, or you’ll come across like a stalker, but do make an effort to demonstrate you’re genuinely interested in their company and the work they do.

If you’re not sure what to say in comments and emails, here are some ideas:

“I’m just writing to say I really enjoyed your article on Mashable yesterday. Your ideas about the future of social media are particularly interesting, and the joke about the camel and the savings bank totally cracked me up. I wondered if you’d read this article on Boing Boing about the same subject …”

Everyone likes to know their work is enjoyed and appreciated. Telling someone how awesome you think they are automatically gives you

Contributing something to the discussion shows you’re engaged with the topic and have thought about their arguments. Asking a question about their thesis, supplying a link to another source or proposing a new idea for them to think about can be great ways to engage a conversation.

Don’t be afraid to disagree with their opinions, as long as you voice your responses in a pleasant manner. Always refute points, not people. You could be talking to your future boss, so tread carefully.

Foster these connections and grow your network through continued interaction and helpful, interesting discussion. You’re no longer just a name on a resume, but a genuine person with real value, views and experience. You’ve built up a level of trust and, when a job offer opens up, you can assert your interest before it’s even advertised in a job search site. It’s not uncommon to see web companies tweeting “Web designer needed: ft, NYC, funky up-and-coming digital company. DM me for details.”

Growing Your Personal Brand

Using social media and blogging to create your own personal brand can also put you in the unique position of having employers contact you. With a prominent image and a reputation as a niche expert, you could attract the very jobs you want.

The best way to brand yourself as an expert is to start a blog and become a provider of top-quality, useful and informative content. Writing a successful blog (like this one) involves committing a huge chunk of time to crafting unique, creative and useful articles, as well as setting up a blog, designing the template, monitoring comments, and promoting the blog through guest posts and comments on other blogs.

By blogging about topics you’re passionate about, whether that’s web design, social media, online marketing or developing computer games, not only will your writing demonstrate your passion and commitment much better than a standard CV, but you’ll attract employers looking for people with just the skills you have.

Freelancers can use a blog to introduce readers to their online portfolio and network with potential clients.

It takes a lot of work to create a successful blog, but as a long-term career goal, a blog can prove an invaluable networking resource.Social media mistakes that hurt your career

Whether you’re blogging, tweeting, Facebooking or Linking In, remember social media can hurt your job search just as much as it can help. The lines between your personal and business life have blurred, and photographs and gossip shared between friends can be seen by potential employers.

Many people use two Facebook / Twitter accounts – one for friends and family only, which is strictly private and not advertised, and one for networking / business, which is still personable without all the ranting / incriminating photographs. This technique works well for many people, but be aware photographs and information from private accounts can still be hacked and distributed.

Here are some common problem areas of Social media, and how you can avoid destroying your job prospects.

Status Updates

Facebook revolutionised social media by introducing the status update – a little sentence for you to instantly tell your friends what you’re thinking. Twitter took the status-update concept to a whole new level, introducing the concept of “microblogging”.

Status updates and “tweets” are no longer simply ways to keep in touch with friends and family, they’re powerful tools for projecting your personal brand and connecting with potential employers … and therein lies the problem.

Too many people forget what they say online is public (even with privacy settings). Stories abound of people bad-mouthing their boss or company to their Facebook “friends”, only to find out they’ve been fired the next day.

Exercise discretion with social media. Not everything you think and do should go online. Apply the rule your mother taught you: “If you can’t say something nice. Don’t say anything at all.” Don’t bad-mouth companies, publications or people, because you never know who might be watching. Even if you never intend to work for that person ever, your dream boss might be their best friend or spouse. Think before you tweet.

Ranting and Negativity

Watch out for overly personal or negative status updates or blog posts. We all love a little whine now and then, but if all your status updates are what you’re eating on your new low-carb diet, how unfair the world is or how much you hate the government / council / car drivers / cyclists / conservatives / liberals / religious fanatics / toasted sandwich machines, then you sound like someone with a bad attitude, and no one will want to work with you.

If you’re having a bad day, resist the urge to rant. Instead, say something like “I’m having a bad day. Share a funny link to cheer me up!”

Photographs

After status updates, compromising photographs cause the most problems for potential employees. We all heard the story of the two Dominoes pizza employees fired after posting a video of themselves in unmentionable situations with a pizza. Pictures of you making rude signs, lewd gestures, guzzling pints at a party, or even pictures where you simply don’t look your best might adversely affect your chances of landing a job with your dream company.

An employer looks at these pictures and thinks “if I found these, so could our customers? Is this really the image I want the company to project?” If not, you have no chance for the job, and all because of Facebook.

Before you post photographs on your Facebook or share them on Twitter, ask yourself “would I be comfortable if my boss / grandmother / the president saw this picture? Does this picture represent the ‘me’ I want employers to see?” If not, don’t post.

Spam

Social media games like “Farmville” can be a lot of fun, but they spam your friends’ status feeds – including the feeds of potential employers and contacts – and this can get you de-friended and blacklisted fast. Try to limit these applications to personal accounts only.

These days, the lines between your online persona and your real life personality don’t exist. Social media has allowed us the unique ability to personally connect with people we admire and respect. While most people use social media to stay in touch with friends and watch celebrities, many people are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others to gain important contacts and network their way to their dream jobs.

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