It’s true. You can very easily waste a lot of time on the various social media sites we find ourselves inundated with these days. But it’s also true that you can use these new social media sites as a venue to proactively strut your professional skills, abilities, and expertise. You can also use them to position yourself for new career opportunities. Here’s how.
Why do we attend networking events in person? Maybe it’s to meet people and make connections or to expand our professional contacts. Some attend simply to socialize; others to learn things or expose themselves to new ideas and people. Some just attend for the fun of it.
In the new web 2.0 world we now live in, participating on social networking sites can provide all of those same benefits PLUS expand your network to a national and global level. Have you ever met anyone at a local networking event with national or global reach? Maybe, but it’s pretty rare in most circles. And even if you have, were you able to establish and maintain contact with them after the event was over? Probably not. On social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, you can connect with national and global leaders in your industry, your profession, or even in your specific areas of expertise and learn directly from them by following the tweets and posts they share on their sites. Better yet, you can post comments or reply to their posts and open the door to future dialogue directly with these leaders. And it can happen in a matter of hours and days! The relationships that develop can be career changing.
Social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn give you a place to establish your authority as an expert in your field by sharing your personal insights, your passions, and your expertise. The more people see you sharing relevant, thoughtful content, the more credibility you gain and the more people begin to trust you as a recognized leader and resource (or professional contact) in your field. It can also be a very valuable tool for building your personal brand.
You may not think anyone is going to care about what you’re doing or what you have to say. That may be true if you only share trivial things like what you just ate or why you hate your job. The key to success here is sharing a nice mix of personal things (not private!) so people can get to know you, professional things so people can learn about what you do, and a few relational things so people feel compelled to connect with you. Posts, tweets, and updates are the fine art of small talk in the virtual world. But this doesn’t mean you have to tell me EVERYTHING you think or do! If you’re using social media to build your credibility and personal brand in your profession, you need to think about each post in that light before you click enter.
Now, I will admit, there are a couple of reasons NOT to participate in social media:
- Everybody’s doing it. If you don’t have a defined reason (e.g. to meet new people, to find resources, to share my knowledge, to connect with old friends), then figure this out first.
- My kids/friend/co-worker told me I should. There’s no quicker way to ruin your intro to social media than doing it because someone told you that you should. Know your purpose and your target audience before you join in or it’s going to confuse and frustrate you and potentially ruin your entire experience along with the potential benefits.
So how do you get started with social networking? Here are a few tips:
- Just getting started? Don’t do Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all at once! It’s important for you to learn the “culture” of each site and how others are using it before you dive in all the way.
- Create an account on the site you want to begin with. I recommend starting on LinkedIn if you haven’t already tested out the social media waters.
- Complete your profile information as thoroughly as you can before you start connecting with other professionals.
- Load a PROFESSIONAL headshot. I’m not talking about one where you took it yourself or someone threw you up against a white wall or a tree in the yard and shot you (with a camera, of course). I’m talking about a truly good, professional photo of yourself. If you don’t already have a professional headshot, you should. So now’s a great time to get one if you don’t already have one.
- Lurk behind the scenes for a bit first and learn how to use the site you’ve started with.
- Learn the lingo. This is probably the most important on Twitter where there is a whole new vocabulary of twitter-speak that is helpful to know.
- Start developing your network. Now, it’s time to start connecting with others. On LinkedIn, you can search by name, company name, and email address to start connecting with professional contacts from current or past positions you’ve held. Once you connect with someone, scan through their connections to see who you may know that you should also connect with. You can also join groups on LinkedIn. If you belong to a professional association, check to see if they have a group and join it. If you have a specific area of expertise or work in a certain industry, search for groups in those categories and join a few. This is a great way to make NEW connections with people you may have never met before in person. And your network expands!
- Use tools like HootSuite.com or Tweetdeck.com to manage your use of the various social media sites more effectively. These are especially important if you begin to use a site like Twitter. It makes the management of so much information way more manageable and useful to you. It’s also a huge time saver. Plus they have great apps for your smartphone devices so you can share information online any time you feel like it.
Now that you’ve established an account and started connecting with others, here are some ways you can use social media for career planning and advancement:
- Post resumes. On LinkedIn, your profile pretty much becomes your online, virtual resume. On sites like Facebook or Twitter, you can share elements of your resume in your profile, in your tweets and posts, or create an e-portfolio site or personal blog site to direct viewers to when they want to learn more about you professionally.
- Post questions. You can post questions in your profile updates or on the pages of groups you have joined.
- Answer questions. This is where you can begin to share your expertise without being pushy. If someone asks a question that you can answer, share your thoughts with them.
- Participate in discussions. There are a lot of conversations taking place on Facebook Fan Pages and in LinkedIn Groups. Twitter is a constant discussion of almost any topic 24/7. So there are plenty of places and opportunities for you to participate in discussions with others. This gives you a great platform to show professionalism, develop credibility, and share your expertise.
- Make connections with past contacts and new contacts. If you are looking to make a career transition, many times, it’s not what you know but WHO you know that makes the difference. Reaching out to colleagues who have worked with you and know your skills and abilities may help you network more effectively.
- Establish relationships with those who may be able to connect you to key influencers. Sometimes you need someone to open a door for you. Social media sites like LinkedIn can provide you with the exact route you may need to take to get your name in front of the right people.
- Retweet or share the content from others. Spreading someone else’s tweets or posts helps them as well as gives them a favorable view of you. It’s a great way to get your name on their radar if you haven’t personally connected with them yet also.
- Use LinkedIn as your virtual resume and e-portfolio. Take full advantage of all of the applications you can use with LinkedIn and post samples of your work in an electronic portfolio using the SlideShare or GoogleDocs applications. Add your LinkedIn public URL to your resume, email auto signature, and business cards to direct people to your profile with one click.
Online Reputation Management
If you choose to participate online in ANY way, you MUST monitor your reputation online also. Google your name regularly. What comes up when you type your name into a Google search field and hit enter? You need to know what’s showing up and how it may impact your personal brand. If you don’t plan to log into your social media sites daily, set up the notification settings so they send you an email when someone posts on your wall (Facebook) or retweets one of your tweets (Twitter) or sends you an email or connection request (LinkedIn). If something negative is posted or said about you, you want to be able to address it as quickly as possible. If something positive is posted or said about you, you want to be able to say thank you or respond appropriately while the moment is relatively fresh. You can also set up Google Alerts (a free service) to send you a notice every time it finds an online mention of your name, your company’s name, or any other key term you want to be notified about.
A few final thoughts…
Social networking does NOT replace face to face networking or traditional job hunting measures! But it is a new tool in your toolbox that you must learn how to use if you want to advance your career. It’s a new tool to blend into the mix just like you would a new kitchen utensil. You’re not getting rid of the other strategies you’ve used in the past, you’re enhancing them with this new resource. Not all social media sites are right for everyone. Learn more about each one and take it one step at a time as you introduce social media to your career planning.
Social networking does NOT have to be a huge time drain either. When you know your purpose for being there, your will waste less time. If you have time to check voice messages, send text messages, read emails, and open the mail each day, then you have time to scan, post, and review a few tweets, posts, or updates on your social media sites a few times each week as well.
Always remember: Keep it professional. Just because you may want to use Facebook for personal and LinkedIn for professional purposes doesn’t mean that the viewers on each site know that. When recruiters search for new candidates, they are searching social media sites to see what they can find or learn about them before they contact them for an interview. So keep that in mind. The bottom line is, if you don’t want it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or the evening news, don’t post it. It’s almost impossible to completely erase something from the web once you’ve posted it.
Educate yourself. Know your purpose for participating. Join in the conversation. And I’ll “see you” online. You have lots to say and valuable expertise to share, I just know it!
SOCIAL MEDIA RESOURCES
If you’d like to learn more or continue your social media education, here are some of my favorite resources:
- Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0 by Jay Conrad Levinson and David E. Perry
- Get Connected: The Social Networking Toolkit for Business by Starr Hall and Chadd Rosenberg
- Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How For Business and Career Success By Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon
- www.tweetdeck.com GREAT TOOL for organizing all social media sites from your personal PC (software based).
- www.hootsuite.com GREAT TOOL for organizing all social media sites from ANY PC (web-based).
- http://search.twitter.com/ Great site for searching topics, keywords, people, etc. on Twitter
Connect with Julie Perrine and All Things Admin Online:
- Connect with me! http://www.linkedin.com/in/julieperrine
- Follow me! www.twitter.com/julieperrine
- Like All Things Admin! www.facebook.com/allthingsadmin
© 2011 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.