An opportunity that I would encourage all job seekers to utilise is the power of social media and networking more widely to find employment opportunities.
My last 3 jobs prior to setting up my own company were not advertised; so I have good reason to believe in the power of networking, both on and offline.
One of these jobs I obtained the day after being made redundant, through attending an event organised by the main trade body for my industry and speaking to people whom I didn’t know. Another opportunity arose from a conversation with a client who turned out to be launching a new department that was right up my street. Another was a speculative application to a company that I heard about via social media.
As with anything, to use networking effectively, there are some key principles to be aware of and common mistakes that need to be avoided, so as not to appear clumsy or unprofessional. Whether online or offline, the rules on how to use networking to your advantage are the same.
So what did I learn?
From the above experience, I learned the following:
• Things happen when we choose to be proactive
• Opportunities can arise out of chance meetings
But what can we do to increase our chances in such an unpredictable world? Well, we can create as many opportunities as we can by being present at the right events, at the right time, giving a suitable representation of ourselves. We can ask the right questions to the right people (I met 4 people from other companies that were either not in the same sector as me or not likely to have opportunities prior to meeting my future boss). Thirdly, we can cultivate our employment ‘offering’ and communicate this consistently and credibly through a variety of relevant channels. This should not be overly daunting to do, since it simply involves understanding the things that we offer our future employer that are valuable, who this offering should be targeted at and then learning to communicate this. I call this the marketing approach to career development.
Practically, this means: If you are in a media or communications related field - have a blog and a web presence that is professional and is separate from any social media activity that is personal and not business related. LinkedIn is a great place to start since it is completely aimed at the professional sphere. Other opportunities depend on your particular industry but might include trade bodies, professional associations and communities that have a relevant common interest (of which Social Hire is one).
How to network
Important factors are the content of the communication, timing and structure (as they are in any context); so talking at someone in an annoying way is not to be recommended. Having a professional conversation about common interests however, and choosing to follow up the ones that seem promising, is never going to do any harm.
Content of your communication
The purpose of your professional profile and networking is not to get you a job. It is to position you in an appropriate way so as to open up opportunities that you can take advantage of. So, two commonplace mistakes are:
1. To ask about job opportunities without having established a professional connection first. You may not be speaking to the right person, but they may be able to put you in touch with another, or they may be busy on other things (developing their audience or exhibiting for example). Employment opportunities may not be at the forefront of their mind. The hard sell approach will rule you out in this case, rather than creating a memorable positive connection.
2. Writing ‘job seeker’ or ‘recent graduate’ as the headline on a social media account. This does not give the impression of a high performing candidate that needs to be snapped up without delay. Nor does it give any indication of the value that you offer. Instead tell them what your relevant expertise is.
In summary, there are various ways of getting yourself in front of the employment decision maker. You can respond to adverts and apply to agencies, and these methods might work. They are high volume, so your application will need to be outstanding. Additionally, you can develop your own methods of targeting your desired employer. Get this right and you will be playing an entirely different game; one that is played on significantly more attractive terms.