Q: I was laid off in February. I saw it coming so my resume was done, and I have a LinkedIn account and a Facebook profile. I know I’m supposed to use 'social networks' as a tool to find a job. But I’m not sure I really get how to use them in a job search?
A. I’m so glad you were prepared for your layoff, and that you took advantage of that time to prepare for the search. Many people do not use the advance notice they have, which is unfortunate. Networking remains the best way to conduct a job search, and the number one method leading to offers. Add technology and we have super tools when they are used effectively. A job search is about effectively marketing yourself and your skill sets to prospective employers. Social and professional networking tools provide a simple and efficient way to accomplish this. And using these tools is worth while because HR professionals, hiring managers, recruiters and search firms are also using these tools to look for you.
To consider your LinkedIn profile current, it should have great resume content for all your experience areas as well as references from former colleagues at each job you’ve held. Consider growing your connections by entering the names of the companies you have worked for, so that you can review who else you might want to invite to link. Have you listed all your current or past professional memberships? I don’t find the outlook mass invite strategic enough, but other people are comfortable using that tool. But I do encourage you to spend time “playing” to see who else you know by looking up people, companies, reviewing the jobs link. This treasure hunt will pay off. Your goal is to develop a strong network of level 1 connections. LinkedIn describes these as your trusted friends and colleagues. Based on the number of level 1 contacts you have, your second and third level contacts grow exponentially, so you have more potential leads and information. Include your picture, and make sure a person interested in hiring you would consider it professional. On the home page you can share information about the kind of position you are looking for – these updates can be very effective.
Next, join some industry relevant LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn groups are a great way to keep current on industry news, networking events, trends and more. So start by joining all of the groups hosted by the largest industry associations and trade magazines in your field. You may also see job openings posted here before they are listed anywhere else. Also, creating a reading list on Amazon (which feeds into your LinkedIn account) to let your contacts know what you are reading and what you are interested in is a simple way to give a hiring manager more information on you than what they will find in a resume. You may also find great recommendations about books organizations are using as professional development. Make sure professional reading is what is listed here.
Some people use Facebook as a less formal networking group. You might have personal friends, or people in a broader selection of professions as contacts. Use the fan status to follow companies you need to learn more about. Facebook (MySpace, Friendster, etc.) and LinkedIn makes it easy to query your entire network with job search related questions. Both tools are great for providing brief updates on where you are in your search and what help you might need on any given day.
If you want to take your social networking strategy to the next level consider sharing your industry expertise through microblogs like Twitter. It’s a great way to showcase your knowledge and experience with your peers as well as potential employers. Also, you can easily feed your Twitter account into your Facebook profile making updates a lot more efficient and allowing you to reach two audiences simultaneously. If you don’t feel like you have enough to say to dedicate a Twitter account to that effort, than share your knowledge by commenting on other industry blogs and trade publications articles.
Other simple social networking efforts includes creating Google Alerts on job titles and companies of interest so you can be the most knowledgeable candidate to respond to job queries and be up-to-speed on the company when it comes time to interview.
At any job seeker level, take the time to make the job search process efficient, and more competitive. These tools become a two way street. You are looking for the right opportunity, and by creating a larger online presence you are making it easier for employers to find you.