Social Media and the Job Search


BusinessWeek reader Stephen Kohnle details his adventures in Internetworking, or job-hunting through social networking

In a climate where unemployment rates are at a 24-year high, and the average executive's tenure is only about three years, social media has become more than simply a fun way to chat with friends and share photos from a weekend in Las Vegas—it has evolved into an important job search and networking tool.

Networking has always played an important role for job seekers. For me, every position I have landed over the past 25 years (except for one) has been due to networking directly with people in my industry. Social media takes traditional networking to a new technological level.

This unique form of communication, where targeted, user-created content is published via online resources, allows anyone to share ideas, comments, and opinions on a host of topics, regardless of the participant's physical location. In cyberspace, social media options are varied: Purely social Web sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.); online forums; blogs; Webcasts; social bookmarking sites (such as Delicious and Google Reader); and even photo- and video-sharing networks like Flickr and YouTube.

Standing Out in a Crowd

As for how social media can be used as a job-searching tool? As someone who was recently "downsized" as a director of worldwide sales for a small, high-technology equipment manufacturer, my network of contacts has become an invaluable resource in my search for a new position. Yet it takes more than a handful of contacts and a good résumé to land a new job in the 21st century. Sending numerous e-mails or applying online to any and all job postings doesn't allow one to shine. Instead, I'd be one in a crowd of similar individuals.

All job seekers want to stand out from the crowd, especially one filled with others eyeing similar positions. This is where social media can be a powerful tool. I started with LinkedIn, leveraging my connections and tapping into the site's array of different groups to find and connect with people in industries I'm interested in pursuing. Searching companies in these industries, I was able to identify places where I might like to work.

I expanded on this by making active use of Twitter in conjunction with whoshouldifollow.com. This allowed me to find people I wanted to follow—those that may be interested in hiring me or assisting me in my job search—and market my skills to them through tweeting, where I share resources and respond to their interests and queries, as well.

Taking a Page from the Welches

I had always admired Jack Welch and enjoyed reading his books and BusinessWeek columns. I stumbled across Jack's Twitter feed, where he tweeted the link to his (and his wife, Suzy's) thoughts about how to use Twitter effectively.

Following a link from one of the Welches' columns, I discovered Business Exchange within BusinessWeek.com. BusinessWeek's social bookmarking service allows users to create topics of interest and collaboratively sort and comment on them.

I've been using Business Exchange to find and keep on top of specific business topics in which I'm interested, saving them in my profile, and visiting often to post comments and encourage discourse among others using the site. I've extended this to posting comments and favorite articles on Twitter and Facebook in order to network with as many people as I could and develop new connections.

Enhancing Web Visibility

Why am I doing all this? Because getting noticed by prospective employers and recruiters is the name of the game! People who can demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of a particular industry, or whose name appears when a Web search is conducted, are more likely than not to be noticed first. Indeed, a job seeker who is also a content producer—by demonstrating a passion for a particular topic through posting content online—and attuned to social media will attract, and spot, job opportunities.

To this end, in addition to all the social networking sites in which I'm an active participant, I started my own personal business blog in the hopes that recruiters and hiring managers, searching to fill key positions, will find me. My goal is to post informative business topics there that I hope will be of interest to, and make me more "searchable" by, these recruiters and hiring managers.

The bottom line: In today's competitive job market, it will be the resourceful and self-motivated participant in social media that will find the perfect job. And rather than sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring, I'm using an array of interactive Web opportunities to meet decision-makers and stay on top of what's going on.

BusinessWeek reader Stephen Kohnle is a sales management strategist based in Stamford, Conn.

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