On Sept. 13, 2011, Veronica Brown, a vice president at Washington, D.C.-based Gibraltar Associates, received the following Tweet from a follower she had never met: "Veronica, I was wondering if it would be possible to arrange an informational interview at GA. Would love to learn more about firm."
In an era where the Internet has greatly simplified the process of identifying and submitting applications for job openings, organizations have been driven to publish strict "do not call" policies to deter job applicants from flooding their inboxes and voicemails. In order to get noticed in 2012, the wise applicant looks to social media to help rise above the crowd of job seekers.
This article addresses five areas where social media can facilitate the job search process. But remember, while social media may seem like a miraculous new way to directly contact the CEO of your dream employer, you cannot rush ahead without assessing the situation. Would the CEO want you stalk them at a garden party? Of course not. Neither would she want you to continually post on her Facebook page. Social media does not break down all barriers, but it can, when used properly, help create unique access opportunities.
Social media is all fun and games until you need a job. Then every drunken photo, every tasteless joke, and every extreme political comment becomes a work sample by which you are judged. The best way to avoid creating an adverse social media track record is to think before you act in every online venue. If you want to be a public relations professional, for example, you need to set yourself on a course months in advance of your first application that helps brand you online as a talented young communicator. That can include having your own portfolio website, building a following of PR professionals on Twitter, acting older than your age on Facebook, and fleshing out your resume and recommendations on LinkedIn. In short, act like you are being scrutinized every day you go online, because the Internet has a long memory. Understand that potential employers will Google you extensively before they ever offer you a job. That's the way of the digital world we live in.
Once you've established your professional presence online, social media can be a nifty tool for identifying new job opportunities. While it does not replace job boards and company websites, keyword searches on Twitter or company websites on Facebook and LinkedIn are a great way to find specific opportunities. Additionally, if you are unsure what an organization has to offer, you can reach out via social media to their official account to get advice. Further, social media, particularly LinkedIn, enables you to identify the HR executives at many organizations. They often advertise on their profiles that they are happy to answer questions from potential applicants; take them at their word and send them your questions.
Get Your Foot in the Door
So you've identified an organization that you want to work at, but you haven't received a response to your job application. Don't give up; that's what informational interviews are for! Companies are on the lookout for qualified individuals to add to their database, so never hesitate to reach out online to senior staffers at an organization and ask for a meeting. The benefit of social media is that you don't need official contact info. So long as they have a presence online, you can probably reach them. You won't always get a response, but you will find that you will create more opportunities than you might expect by simply making the ask in a non-traditional manner. Once you've gotten in the door physically, introduced yourself, and built the relationship, you will have placed yourself at the head of the line for future job opportunities.
Create a Job From Scratch
This is simple to understand, but extraordinarily hard to execute. Do you have unique skills? Can you stand out from the online crowd? If you want a certain type of job, but can't find anything along that line to apply for, try to create your own job. You hear about this often in the tech world. Such-and-such tech company is so impressed by a demo created by a young programmer that they hire him on the spot, regardless of current openings. The same can be true for other fields. Figure out what impresses people in that field, identify your targets, and if you have the special talent or skill, use social media to alert them to your abilities. They will know you, even if they don't have a job. And in a best-case scenario, they might decide that they just need to have you on their team. (Caveat: If you aren't convinced that you can stand out, you are just adding more noise to the din that they are trying to ignore).
Close the Deal
After you've built the relationship, measured persistence is key. If you believe you are the best person for a job, don't let them forget, and don't let them believe that you only like low-hanging fruit. After you've had that first meeting, stay in touch online. Make sure they don't forget you by sharing work-relevant links, continuing to engage with them, and evincing your admiration for your dream employer (flattery never hurt a tweeter). Remember, you are in a crowded market, and you need to stand out until you are either offered a job or told to go away. And be patient. Jobs can take a long time to develop; but the long-developing opportunities often lead to the best careers and employers.
For more advice on finding a job in communications-related fields, I recommend checking out Ron Culp’s Culpwrit blog, which covers similar topics with a great deal of expertise.
The Proof Is In the New Job
Wondering what happened to the follower who messaged Veronica on September 13? After three rounds of interviews over a four-month period, all scheduled via Twitter, I started work at Gibraltar Associates as a senior manager on April 18 and share an office wall with Veronica. Count me as a converted believer in social media's potential as an employment tool.
Brian Wagner is a senior manager at McBee|Gibraltar, the strategic communications solution within McBee Strategic. Based in Washington, D.C., he is also a public affairs officer in the Navy Reserve. All opinions expressed are his own.