How Being a Social Network Butterfly Can Help You Land a Job and Improve Your Career
This article was originally written as a 3-part piece for Talent Zoo. I got enough positive feedback (and found it slowly getting buried beneath new blog posts), that I thought I’d re-post it here in it’s entirety. Since this was written alot has happened with Social Media, social networks and the job market. This has not effected the overall message in the blog post, as a matter of fact, it has made it even more important to get involved in social networks.
It’s no secret that Social Networking is huge. It’s also obvious that it is continuously changing. Friendster gave way to MySpace, which is fighting to retain users that are quickly immigrating to Facebook, all the while; many of us have snuck off to Twitter and FriendFeed. If these are the only sites you know, you only know about 1/10000th of what makes up the social network universe. Don’t feel bad, few can wrap their head around the breadth and depth of SoNets, and no one is omniscient enough to have even heard of most of them.
SoNets are a fact of life and business. If you’re reading this, you’re on Talent Zoo, which means you’re looking for a job or an employee. Businesses can feel free to hire me to consult with them about SoNets and Social Media (SoMe), this one is for the job hunters.
So you’ve got your resume perfect, it gives a brilliant overview of your skills, talent, and experience. You’re already a step ahead of me! You’ve briefed your references so they talk about your strengths and not what you did at the last company outing. If you’re a creative, you’ve got your portfolio book, site, or iPod full of your best work. That should do it right? Not exactly. What happens when your future employer’s HR staff Googles you? They’ll get to know you really well or not. They may find nothing, not a big deal; unless you’re a creative, marketer, advertiser, programmer, you get it. If you’re in the business you’d better be online. ‘Why’ should be obvious, we’ll get to ‘where’ later. Let’s talk about ‘how’.
How you present yourself online, in SoNets or otherwise is as important as how you present yourself in person. Even more so since this may be your first impression to potential employers, and you know what they say about first impressions. This goes not just for job hunters involved in advertising or interactive, but for everyone. Most savvy employers won’t hold your MySpace pictures against you, some may. The Internet is public domain. Everyone can see anything you’ve posted online. So those party pictures, blogs about Star Trek and forum rants are just a click away for anyone who wants them. If you want be treated as a professional, take care to establish a professional persona online. Keep your comments, blogs, etc. professional. This isn’t to say you can’t be yourself online. On the contrary, be as personal and wacky as you want. Just do it with a non- related screen name that you only share with friends. Speaking of which, if you’re on Facebook, get two accounts. One for friends that’s private and one for professionals. Don’t let friends or non-business contacts friend you. You’d be surprised how inappropriate your college buddies or that girl you just met might be on your Wall! (update: soon you’ll be able to use Gathr.me, so you won’t need multiple accounts. Just one account and multiple public pages)
For those thinking, ‘this is such a pain, why bother’, remember that first impression I mentioned? By presenting a skilled and experienced face on social networks, you can get a jump on the competition. By getting involved in professional forums you can position yourself as an eager learner, a helpful pro, even as an expert in your field.
You can get much more from social networks than just a chance to show your mettle. SoNets are a great source of education. Other users can help you solve problems, point you to tutorials and other resources, turn you on to industry news and events, even hook you up with contacts.
“Okay, I get it, give a little, get a little, put my best face forward. But where?” There is no right answer. If I was talking just to 3D artists, I’d suggest niche sites like CGTalk.com. You’ll have to spend a little time Googling to find the best niche networks to get involved with. For SoNets that aren’t so niche, a good place to start is our old friend Facebook. FB has a great many groups, some as random as My Name Is Durwin (of which I am a member of course), or as obvious as Design & Typography. Professional groups aren’t just on Facebook though, MySpace and others have some worth joining. There are a bunch of great sites dedicated to professionals only, chief among them, LinkedIn. If you don’t have an account here, you’re, quite frankly, nuts. Talent Zoo is a great site for job searching. Not only does it offer great articles (feel free to agree below) and job boards, but also gives you a chance to interact with colleagues and potential employers.
If you have a unique interest, alot to say, or ADD (all of which I’m very proud of), consider subscribing to or starting a blog. There is no end to the number of general and niche industry blogs, from technology to job hunting, advertising to life hacking. Got something on your mind? For free you can create as many blogs as you like with sites like WordPress, Blogspot (which somehow became Blogger when I wasn’t looking), to name a few. It’s as easy as using Word. Much more than an online diary, it’s a great way to discuss your ideas and get feedback from readers. If you want to develop a larger social network, consider using Ning to launch a blog that can turn into a fill-fledges, multi-member social network. D.C. Insider Ariana Huffington turned her blog into a multi-author, political blog network worth millions.
Of course, everyone is talking about Twitter now. It has actually become my #2 news source, after CNN and tied with the Huffington Post. I’ve made tremendous contacts and learned an enormous amount of helpful and professional facts, as well as a tremendous amount of inane and personal facts! “Isn’t that where geeks go to talk about their latest podcast and what happened on Heroes?” Of course it is. But it’s much more. There is nowhere that the conversation is more raw and to the point than Twitter. In 140 characters, you’ll get everything from Red Sox plays to the latest on the McCain and Obama campaigns, behind-the-scenes images and commentary from industry events. You’ll also get help with technical problems, employee referrals, heads-up on new products, new sites and new jobs. There is a fun movie on Twitter.com that explains the service. Your best bet would be to begin by following some people whose user name you know (like mine) and see who they’re talking to. Pick the ones having interesting conversations and follow them, then see who they are following. It’s as exponential as it is experiential. Twitter isn’t just for online chat. I’ve met dozens of the people I converse with everyday at industry events. As a matter of fact, that’s how I found out about the event in the first place. Even out-of-town Tweeps come into town; they get treated to a Boston Tweet-up!
Twitter is not a place to join and start begging for jobs, or beating people over the head with your CV. LinkedIn is not the place to start Friending everyone at a company you’ve never worked at in hopes of getting an inside referral. In any social network, just like when visiting a foreign country, get to know the local customs. See how people interact, what they are interested in. You may find it’s not the right place for you. But, don’t worry, there are so many social networks, you’ll very easily find one that suits you whether you are job hunting, trying to change careers, or looking to hire.
If, like me, you find it difficult to focus on several disparate social networks, or find time to run or keep up with a blog, you may want consider microblogs. Twitter us the best known, but Pownce and Jaiku offer similar services. Twitter’s limited 2 140 characters, so u need 2 learn 2 Twitter shorthand + b concise w your comments 2 fit them in2 1 microblog submission. Everyone using these services is restricted to the same limit, but despite, or perhaps because, of this, you can very quickly pick up some gems. Just this evening I learned: of new OpenSource training videos, that Twitterers rather than major media first broke the news about the LA earthquake, and found a colleague in need of traditional and online branding experts to write for her new site. Looks like I’m going to be spending more late nights typing away at the virtual keyboard of my iPhone while watching man-movies on Spike (Jaws 2 finished, I’m on to The World Is Not Enough)! Like any SoNet, there is great deal of irrelevant junk, but, thanks to Twitters newly purchased search engine and third party sites like TwitterPacks, you can search for subjects and people of interest and Follow (subscribe) to that person’s feed. Who knows, you may gain your own Followers. I’m following 170 people ranging from CNN to Digg’s Kevin Rose and Robert Scoble and am being followed by 184. Just remember, even in microblogging, keep it professional or at least make sure you don’t say anything you’ll regret.
Everything I’ve mentioned will work to increase your search engine visibility, your networking possibilities and your name recognition. Kind of like building a brand isn’t it? Brand YOU. Brand “you need a job”, brand “you are an asset”. Use these channels to promote yourself but don’t spread yourself too thin. Some networks are a great place to
just sign up and post your resume and contact info. Some are full of colleagues and friends that will overrun your inbox. Decide which require minimum effort and stay on top of the ones that require more. Above all, make sure you keep your contact info and resume up to date.
There will be a lot to manage at first but you’ll get the hang of it. Don’t worry, relief is on the way. There are a few people, including myself, that are working on ways to aggregate, or bring together many of these social networks into one manageable tool.
Don’t mix business with pleasure – keep your private-self jus that, private, and make your professional-self public.
Find the way to interact online that best suits you – join a SoNet, subscribe or start a blog, Twitter away.
Be easy to find, be up to date – Spread yourself around to as many SoNets as possible without spreading yourself too thin.
Always put your best face forward – be professional, don’t say anything you’ll regret.