Looking for a job, and feeling like you’re shooting your resume into a black hole?
That’s sure how I felt when I graduated from Duke University this past May. Over the summer, I lost track of how many searches I did on Craigslist, CareerBuilder, Idealist (and so on), how many cover letters I labored over, and how many applications I sent out, only to get a giant whopping nothing in response.
I knew there had to be a better way. So I swallowed my independent streak, and reached out to friends and family (and their friends and family) for help. As soon as I started using my network – both in person and online – I started finding jobs that were a better fit for me, and in turn, getting more replies.
In the end, it was a friend in the writing and marketing business who forwarded me the job posting that landed me my current gig. But I wouldn’t have sealed the deal without using what I had learned about job searching over the summer.
Some of what I learned is listed below. Of course, these tips will work better for some companies, and some jobs, than they’ll work for others. But hey, they worked for me. Whether you’re looking for a job at a small company like I was, or just searching for some good advice, read on.
1. Follow the right people on Twitter. If you’re interested in a company, follow it, and the people who work there, on Twitter. Use @s and DMs to catch some attention. People might not have time to sort through their emails, read your resume, and send you a formal email back – but they’ll probably have time to shoot you a 140 character tweet. And then when they do get to your resume, they’ll at least have your Twitter pic to put with your name. Sometimes, companies even tweet new job openings.
2. Like the company on Facebook. Commenting on the company’s status updates and posting on its wall will get people who work there to notice your name. In the process, you’ll be learning about the company’s news and personality. Just like with Twitter, Facebook can be a great way to learn about job postings before they even make it on Craigslist. On the flip side, you’re practically inviting people at the company to look at your own profile, which makes it even more important that your own Facebook profile is inoffensive (which it should be anyways!). A good rule of thumb here is to run your profile by your parents, or use an internal “parental filter.” If you wouldn’t want mom and dad to see it, you certainly don’t want a potential employer to see it.
3. Research on LinkedIn. Find out who’s reading the applications, or who will be interviewing you, and look them up on LinkedIn. Chances are good that you’ll be able to find out more about people here than you can on Facebook. Again, you also get the heads-up on job postings benefit here. A note of caution – be wary about connecting with someone on LinkedIn before you’ve even met them. Many people are selective about who they accept as a connection on LinkedIn, so it’s risky to try to connect with someone you don’t know well. But there’s nothing wrong with looking at people’s profiles to see where they worked before, what they’re interested in, and where they got their education. You might even find out that you have mutual connections.
4. Read the company’s blog. Reading, and commenting, on the company’s blog is yet another way for them to get to know your name, and your capabilities. If you’re up to date with the company’s blog, you can point out a post that you agree with in your cover letter, or ask a question about the blog in your interview. Another plus – company blogs=job posting gold mines.
5. Start your own blog. The potential here varies depending on what type of job you’re looking for. But if you want a job that involves writing, or any type of digital communications, you must blog, if you aren’t already. As long as it’s well written and inoffensive, it doesn’t matter what you blog about, but you’ve got to do some walking if you’re going to be talking about your writing skills. Having your own blog lets you produce a quality writing sample without having to be formally published.
6. Make yourself a website. Again, this can be more or less useful depending on what kind of job you’re looking for, but has a lot of potential. If you’re looking for a job in the digital marketing world, or trying to get freelance work of any kind, a website is a must. Your site doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can do it yourself. Not only will having a website make you look super legit, the time you take to gain some simple web design skills will pay off when you put those skills on your resume.
7. Google yourself. If you’ve structured your website correctly, it should probably show up without too much extra effort when you Google your name. But we’re not talking SEO here – we’re talking disaster prevention. Remember that middle school LiveJournal rant? The emo pictures on MySpace? Chances are, these are still out there in the cloud, and they’ve got to go. Potential employers will Google your name – make sure they’ll like what they find.
8. Integrate your efforts. If you don’t use what you learn in a cohesive way, why bother? Bring up what you’ve read in your cover letter or interview, even if it’s something as simple as gently pointing out a rivalry between your favorite sports team and your potential employers’. Prove that you’ve done your homework, and show off your confidence and personality.
Of course, all of these tips will come to naught if you don’t also stick to what’s tried and true–being on time, following up, asking good questions. But using social media can help you stand out.