July 16, 2009

Reader Mailbag: How to Use Social Media to Find a Job

On Thursdays, I answer readers’ questions about their job search. I love hearing what is on your mind, so don’t be shy — send me an email or leave your question in the comments section.

Dear JobMonkey,

I’ve seen you talk a lot of networking online to help find a job, but I really don’t know how that’s supposed to work. I signed up for accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter, like you suggested, but now what?

James in Vermont

Dear James in Vermont,

Thanks for your letter! You know, using online networking to find a job is a lot like job networking in person.

You have taken the first step, which is to set up accounts for yourself on some of the better known social networking platforms. Now it sounds like you are wondering how these tools are going to help you find a job.

Let’s start with LinkedIn. Have you built your profile on LinkedIn? Unlike Twitter, which “forces” you to represent yourself and your thoughts in 140 characters or less, LinkedIn gives you a lot more latitude.

Plus, did you know that there are over 11 million users on LinkedIn and 75% of job recruiters say they now use LinkedIn to research prospective employees? Given that, I’d recommend that you start your social networking efforts on LinkedIn, and then branch out to other platforms when you are ready.

Step 1: Set up your profile.

  • Upload a picture, and make it a professional-looking headshot. No shots of you at the beach, with a beer can in hand, ok?!
  • Include recommendations from other LinkedIn users – it makes you appear more trustworthy.
  • Link to your blog or website, but only if the content speaks to your professional goals. Future employers don’t need to read about your trip to Cancun or your child’s first steps.

Step 2: Start networking.

  • Start with the people you know, just like when you network in person. Upload your email list, then search for college alumni (and professors), former colleagues, members of your religious community, fellow volunteers, etc. Contact each of them personally, with an individualized note to let them know that you are job searching. Ask them if they can be of assistance and follow up on every lead.
  • Join discussion groups. Use the search tool to find relevant groups. Join the conversation by starting discussion threads, responding to questions and offering resources such as relevant article links. Just enter the waters cautiously because you definitely don’t want to come off as a job searching spammer. Your goal is to contribute in a meaningful way to the group and then, once you are known, respected and trusted, members will be willing to help you out in return.
  • Use the Job Search function to look for possible job opportunities. Sort the results by “degrees away from you” so you can work backwards from the job lister to someone in your network.

I hope that helps. Once you master LinkedIn, I am confident you will find it to be a huge benefit to your job search. Good luck!

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