After more than 4 years I’ve made the difficult decision to leave my current employer.  I’ve had some truly great times here and will never be able to thank them enough for the personal and professional development I’ve received. In a relatively short space of time I’ve been promoted, have been able to diversify my skill-set, have made some good friends and I’ve had some great laughs along the way.

“So why are you leaving if you hold the company in such high regard?” you may ask.

Well, I’ve always described myself as a semi-passive candidate (I don’t actually think there is such a thing as 100% passive but that’s a discussion for another time).  I wasn’t active in the market but if you read my post – A tale of social recruitment… – you’ll know I was approached at the end of 2010 with another opportunity, which I ended up declining.

A few months following that experience I was approached again with another role that ticked all the boxes for what it would take to prise me away from my existing employer.  I accepted this one and am currently working the final weeks of my notice before I start. Nervous? Yep. Excited? Totally. Hoping it doesn’t come back and bite me in the arse? Abso-bloody-lutely.

So why tell you this? I know there are folks out there who aren’t sure what this social media malarkey is about when it comes to making it work for them in their career / job hunt. In light of this I thought I would offer myself up as a little case study.

Both the opportunities described in this and my previous post came knocking for me. I didn’t go looking for them.  How did this happen? Was it luck? Right place, right time? Fate? No, nope and definitely not.

It all began with having a presence on digital social platforms. I wasn’t on the market but I could be found if anyone went looking.  It wasn’t a big presence at first. With the original role all I had was a LinkedIn profile, which someone contacted me through as a result of reading.  It wasn’t (and still isn’t to be honest) the best it could be but I guess it gives enough of an indication as to what i’m about professionally.

This leads me to my first hint. If you’re going to start anywhere start here.  If you haven’t got a LinkedIn profile get one. If you have got one make sure it shows you off in a good light. Oh, and get a good picture of yourself on there also.  The life blood of social media is relationships, trust, transparency, communication and dialogue. It’s been well proven that a good, professional photo of yourself is more trusted than a brand logo or nothing at all – which can be perceived as cold and / or impersonal. People do business with people so get your pearly whites on here asap.  Some are reluctant as they may hear people moaning about the volume of unwanted emails they receive from LinkedIn but these are easy to turn down / off in your notifications settings.

The second opportunity came about differently.  LinkedIn played a part and my blog / twitter activity supported my cause when I was actually in the process but it started with social networking outside the digital space… Whoa man, check me out. How very pre-2009 of me.

This is where we come to my next tip. Don’t forget your social networks offline. This is critical (and perfectly illustrated in the cartoon on the right, which I found on Andy Headworth’s blog at Sirona Says). It seems obvious but I’ve caught myself doing it. Typing lengthy messages on LinkedIn or Facebook etc only to get to the end and think, “oh for god’s sake just pick up the bloody phone and speak to the person.”

Thirdly, and as I’ve said many times in the past – you’ve gotta give before you get.  I’m not saying you need to start a blog like I did to get recognised, and approached (you probably have a life!) but even if you just do it on LinkedIn or Twitter, start to engage with individuals, communities and networks within your professional fields of interest. Start sharing best practice, thoughts, opinions and ideas. Share links to articles others may find interesting or useful. Build a reputation as someone who has a genuine interest in the area(s) you want to work and have a career in. Whatever you do, communicate.

Remember, the term “Social media” refers to the tools, the housing, the framework so to speak. Social communication is what people are doing on / in it.  It’s the latter you want to be doing and the former you use to do it.  Every post, every blog, every comment, status update, tweet and mention is communication. It builds a picture of what you’re about.  Obviously you’ll need to apply some common sense. I always ask myself two questions before sharing anything:

  1. Is this going to make me look like a complete and utter Muppet?
  2. Could this be rather career limiting at some point in the future?

If I can confidently answer, “no” to both these questions I click the publish button.

At a most basic level  you could say that applying to a vacancy you find on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook etc is “using social media” in your career search but this doesn’t even scratch the dust off the surface of its potential.

Using social media to have a presence that gets you recognised and approached is great but it only helps at the beginning of a recruitment cycle. Once actually in a process I found a key advantage to using digital social platforms on a deeper level is that they helped me build relationships with people before I’d even stepped into an interview.  When I knew who my CV had been forwarded to I looked to connect with them on LinkedIn and communicate asap.  When I eventually spoke to people I was able to have deeper, more engaging conversations and relate specific questions not only about the job, career and company but also about their individual backgrounds and experiences.  I was able to find common ground, which is hugely important in the relationship building process.  It just made initial conversations less superficial and everything more “human”.

Also, 70 – 85% of my activity online is linked to my interests in recruitment, social media and learning & development. When interviewed I could support my claims of passion and enthusiasm for these three topics. I actually had the material and online track-record to demonstrate I was putting my money (time) where my mouth was.

When thinking about it, my online content and activity probably demonstrated more about who I was as a person – my personality, interests, ambitions, motivations, creativity etc than my CV or interviews did… and perhaps ever could???

Hang on a minute.  Am I also a case study to support the debate doing the rounds on Twitter, LinkedIn and the blogasphere RE the potential death of the CV??? – I’ll leave that one for others to debate and decide… For now ;-)

So there you have it.  A real life, personal story of how social media helped me land what I think will be my dream job.  What experiences have other people had with social media / networking in their personal career search / job hunt?  What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? As always, opinions, thoughts and ideas are welcomed in the comments section below.