With the emergence of social networking, more opportunities than ever abound. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter offer a flurry of information that could be helpful, overwhelming or somewhere in between. For those looking for jobs, the sites once used to connect to your high school best friend can become a valuable source for finding your future employer.
With the right use, social media can be a tremendous resource for marketing yourself, bringing employers to you and touting knowledge of your industry. An easy means to reach those you may have otherwise had no direct contact with, such as big businesses, industry leaders and potential colleagues, social networking has proved to be an important tool for job searchers.
With the help of social networking, you are not confined to your address book and the classifieds-you are able to reach a large and precise audience in seconds, proving yourself a go-getter and someone who is not afraid of risk. With the professional atmosphere that LinkedIn provides, the immediate feedback Twitter facilitates and the accessibility of Facebook, those searching for the next big opportunity in health care need reach no further than a keyboard to succeed.
Benefits of Social Networking
"The most effective way to get a job has always been through networking and contacting people you know," said Rob Hellman, adjunct professor at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS) and career coach. "Social media is perfectly designed for that."
Job searchers are no longer restricted to job boards, business cards and newspapers. Jonathan Rick, chief executive officer of the Jonathan Rick Group, a social media agency based in Washington, DC, added that the accessibility of a virtual network has expanded employment efforts in impressive ways. "The Internet has flattened everything," Rick said. "Ten years ago, you had to rely on the physical network of people in your apartment building or church. The world was a very small place and proximity was imperative."
Now, Hellman said, people are able to stay in touch with friends and associates regardless of where they're located. "Everything is virtual-you can send an e-mail and get a response immediately. We are not only in touch with everyone on a global and immediate level, but you can see who your friends are friends with, extending your network exponentially," Rick added. "Whereas your network was very small and relatively closed 10 years ago, now it's endless and the available opportunities are amazing."
Aaron Ginn, community outreach specialist for Simplee in Palo Alto, CA, noted that as businesses become more accessible through social media, the opportunity for employment has also become less stressful. "Employers and
start-ups continue to use publishing avenues to find employees, and therefore the search is becoming more informal," said Ginn, who found his most recent job through Twitter. "Corporations now have their own Twitter accounts and use them as an informal way of hiring. As companies become more socially oriented, they are drawn to people who are equally minded in the social sphere."
Building a Profile
Taking the best steps to landing your dream job virtually must be done with as much care as any other job searching process, however. When approaching job opportunities online, the most important way to effectively market yourself is by having a profile that is easy to read, appropriate and detailed.
"A good first step to building an attractive profile is to make sure there are a lot of similarities between your paper résumé and your online profile," Hellman said. "List your accomplishments in bullet form so it's easy to read. You don't want big, dense paragraphs, but something that is scannable and uses key words relevant to your audience."
Employers will be wary of someone who does not appear professional online, as that is a representation of how you may act with future patients or co-workers. "Establishing your presence and credibility online is key when you're going after established companies," Ginn said. "Employers are likely to search your name on Google and browse your various social networks. Their constant ability to find out information about you is greater than a résumé on paper, so engage yourself in your passion, but show restraint."
Ginn said enhancing your profile by showing an expertise in your field can be a huge draw for employers. "If you're really passionate and socially inclined, show it. It will be beneficial to go online and interact with the leaders in your space. When you do land an interview, they will remember your profile and the time you took to develop a knowledge in your field," Ginn said. "It may be more work, but it will orient you to people in your industry."
He did warn, however, never to write about your field in a moment of passion. "The Internet never forgets," Ginn said. "People actually read what you say. People will reply to what you say, and those people may not be the audience you expected. You want to get traction and be known, but for the right reasons."
Expanding Your Professional Network
To ensure you're reaching the audience you intended, it's important to build a reliable network. "LinkedIn is absolutely the first place to go," Rick said. "It's easy to find former classmates, locate old co-workers and connect with past educators who may help place you in your next job." Be wary, however, of connecting with those you've never met, even briefly, in person, Rick said.
"All social networks allow you to send a message prior to sending a friend request," Rick continued. "If you send a request with no identifying information and no explanation as to why you're connecting with an individual, you will be rejected. It absolutely behooves you to establish a relationship prior to requesting someone as a friend."
To do this, Rick said, start off a message by mentioning a commonality, such as living in the same geographic location, attending the same school or knowing the same person. "There is so much data out there," Rick said. "You would be a fool to not avail yourself to it when connecting with others."
Hellman added that after you have developed a substantial network, prioritize those people between reliable friends who are likely to go lengths in helping you land a job, acquaintances who are willing to provide a connection and those who are simply engaging to socialize. "Keep your social and professional lives separate," he said. "Facebook could be devoted to socializing, but LinkedIn should be strictly professional."
Hellman also noted that it's important to keep your professional network restricted to those few who are willing to make a leap for you. "For a job search, it won't work if you are weighed down by people you don't know. If you look through your network for a contact and can only find strangers, you won't be able to reach out to them and they will prove useless."
Ginn agreed. "Adding people you don't know to your social networks just isn't classy," he said. "You may have a lower number of contacts, but you know you can rely on them. Social media is a great tool, but it will never replace personal interaction. You need to be comfortable with the people you're calling on and know they will help you when you need it."
Know Your Outlets
Perhaps most importantly, it is imperative to know the audience you are interacting with and direct your posts, retweets, friend requests and messages appropriately. "You will get more traction if you listen to other people, and know who is listening back," Ginn said. "Learn exactly who your audience is on each social network, and know what your followers want from each avenue."
Ginn suggested avoiding the social networking saturation state by consolidating posts for each media outlet and catering specifically to each group. "Facebook is a place for friends, Twitter is more of a conversation and LinkedIn is for networking," Ginn said.
With the availability of so many social networks, it's important to prioritize your time between each, paying attention to what you're posting where, according to Hellman. "You have to be careful of what you post and what you say," he said. "Don't spend time complaining about your current job or repeatedly responding to ads. Those are valid, but everyone uses them, so you can't rely on them solely. Use about 80 percent of your time building a reliable network and getting introductions. That is where you will find success."
Kelly Wolfgang is on staff at ADVANCE.
Engage With Companies
"You can certainly engage with a company's page, but restrict your posting to comments and 'liking' on Facebook and following on Twitter. Though the person running the company page is most likely not a hiring manager, your interaction could filter up, or come up in interviews. Nothing pleases an employer more than to hear during an interview that the candidate knows what a company is doing, but you don't want to be overbearing." -Rob Hellman, adjunct professor, New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies and career coach
Build a Network
"When building a network on LinkedIn, use the Advanced People Search tool. You can type in keywords and job descriptions to browse people you may know in the field. You will get great results and find contacts who can introduce you to others in the field."-Hellman
Sustain Your Career
"Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are there to sustain your career. Social media is filled with people you already know who can help you out-people you can go to and say, 'Help me out! I'm looking for a job and if there's anyone you know in the field, keep an eye out.' You can't do that with job boards or newspapers." -Jonathan Rick, chief executive officer, Jonathan Rick Group
"It's important to avail yourself to every opportunity and cast a wide net, but you shouldn't be tempted to apply to every opportunity you qualify for. It's better to apply for five positions for which you're extremely qualified, write detailed cover letters and tailor your résumé specifically to those jobs." -Rick
"Right now is a good time to be on social media talking about health care. There is always a transition, something to care about, something to focus on. Social media is a great way to engage with people on a mass scale and show yourself as someone who is knowledgeable and technologically savvy."-Aaron Ginn, community outreach specialist, Simplee
"Social media is a long-run game. If you're unhappy in your current position, the time to start engaging and looking for a new opportunity is now. It takes a while to build up your rapport online and it takes a while for people to follow you. Go after it-it's always a bad idea to start tomorrow. If you don't invest the time, you'll never succeed." -Ginn