Sunday, 27 March 2011

Social media networking—use it or lose it |

Social media networking—use it or lose it

Published: Sunday, March 27, 2011, 8:41 AM


When Charlie Sheen was fired by CBS, he opened a Twitter account.

Soon, he had more than 3 million followers on Twitter, had sold out a 21-city live tour estimated to earn him approximately $7 million and is rumored to have been offered his old job back on the "Two and a Half Men" sitcom.

Sheen is reportedly holding out for more money. Charlie Sheen is not your normal terminated employee nor is his use of Twitter to further his career typical.

It does highlight the effectiveness of social media and gives rise to the question: "Has social media now become an essential job search tool for the unemployed?"

While not having a LinkedIn profile or Facebook page does not doom an individual to being permanently unemployed, failure to embrace social media limits one’s job search capabilities.

Many companies use social media as a recruiting tool. Not being on their online radar screen may prevent an individual from being considered for a position. Last year UPS, for example, hired 955 employees through social media channels, including: 45 from Twitter, 226 from Facebook, 84 from text messaging and 600 from individuals going to their career page from a mobile device. This represents a significant increase from 2009, when UPS only hired 29 people through social media channels.

Referrals and personal connections, however, are still the best routes to finding a job. Social media can facilitate building those connections by allowing individuals to more readily find people they know, by helping them connect with new people and expand their network and by making it easier to stay in contact with them.

If you take the time to build and nurture your social network, it will be there when you need it. As Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of "And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want," notes: "You’ve got all those Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, and followers on Twitter for a reason—use them!"

She advises looking "to the fruit closest to the ground." Is anyone in your social network working for a company that would be a good fit for you? If so, ask them to keep you in mind the next time a position opens up, or pitch them on your experience and they just might put you in touch with their human resources department.

The focus of your networking—social and otherwise—should not be on gaining an immediate job offer from those in your network.

"That tactic almost never works," Kuzmeski said.

Instead, the goal should be to build a mutually beneficial relationship with someone who might not ever be able to give you a job, but might know someone who can."

Here are some tips on using social media to help advance your career from Brandon Lewin, president of social media marketing firm DoughNuttz:

On Facebook, be professional, yet mix it with some social interests. Include hobbies or topics of interest. This creates a commonality with recruiters and future employers.

Create a full LinkedIn profile. Take advantage of the "Summary" section. Tell a story about yourself. Talk in the first person. That part is not made for resume-like materials. Use the "Experience" section on a LinkedIn profile for the resume-like information.

Provide information that establishes you as the expert in your field.

Gather as many recommendations as possible from past employers, colleagues, and friends.

Use the advanced search options to find companies you are interested in working for. Search for the decision-makers in the company, and see if you have a direct connection with them. If you do, ask for an e-mail introduction, not an introduction over LinkedIn.

It is not enough to just connect online, though. To effectively use your social network, you need to, as Lewin suggests, "take the lines of communication offline."

Chris Perry, an associate brand manager at Reckitt Benckiser in Parsippany, found his job there through LinkedIn. He used LinkedIn and LinkedIn groups to identify brand managers at his target companies and requested informational interviews with them, seeking a few minutes of their time to discuss their careers.

One of those networking meetings led to a formal job interview at Reckitt Benckiser that led to his being hired. As Perry instinctively recognized, social networking does not replace traditional job search strategies. Used properly, it facilitates the building of relations which go beyond merely an online connection. Those relationships are the ones that lead to career opportunities.

A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of "UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What you Want." Mail questions to