This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Business Magazine.
Hiring may be getting better, but many are still struggling to find a job or get out of the underpaying job they are currently in. While news stories have sold the dangers of HR personnel checking up on your social media trail, a well-maintained digital presence can actually be your biggest asset in the job hunt.
1. First Things First
Get a LinkedIn account already, or actually start using that LinkedIn account that you haven’t checked in a year. Keep it updated throughout the year, not just when you’re actively searching. Think of it like insurance; you keep paying into it for when you need it. You don’t wait until you have a crash to buy car insurance, do you?
2. Find Your Niche
Almost every career path and niche is represented in at least one social media channel. Find Twitter chats, groups on Facebook or LinkedIn or standalone communities related to your professional interests. Join them, lurk around a little at first to get the lay of the land and then start participating.
3. Share Your Thoughts
Find somewhere to share your thoughts, whether it’s your own blog, an account on Medium or a guest contribution to the blog of one of those nice people you met in a Twitter chat. Write, share and ask questions. Find other people’s blogs and comment on them asking questions or giving your expert advice.
4. Build Your Brand
Being cohesive is key. Use the same picture on every profile that’s representing you, and make sure that the same message is being spread across each platform. Don’t be an amateur juggler on Pinterest but a “MasterChef” contender on Twitter.
If you follow these steps and people like what you have to say, you’ll eventually start to be considered a leader in your field. You can leverage this when applying for jobs — if you’re really good at it (and lucky), it might just get you one.
Social Media in Action
When I moved to the Bay Area, I had a solid six years of part-time social media and community management experience under my belt, but no connections. I applied for well over 100 jobs with about a 1 percent response rate. Since I’m in a field where your digital brand becomes your personal brand, I got cracking. I found every Twitter chat and Meetup to participate in. I found ways to get free tickets to tech conferences. And I talked about all of this online. I tweeted, I blogged, I interacted, I volunteered. After six months of this brand building, I was invited to an Influencer Sneak Peek of Ning’s new platform. A month after this, their community manager approached me about becoming a part-time consultant to help with content strategy. I ended up bringing guest bloggers on board through the connections I’d made — connections that didn’t exist a year ago. Six months later, the community manager left, and I was moved into the role full-time. It wasn’t easy, and sometimes it was downright disheartening, but it’s fulfilling to now find myself within the vocal circle of my industry.
You can do it, too. Just put yourself out there.