Reach out while liking, following, posting and engaging on the new (media) frontier

By Lisa Ferguson

You’ve used Facebook daily to check in with far-flung friends from your college days, brag about your kid’s latest academic accomplishments and share way too many photos from your recent trip to Jamaica. So why not use it for something constructive, like finding yourself a job?

Not only can you turn to Facebook along with Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, YouTube and other social networking and media sites for assistance during the job-search process, you absolutely should according to Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He authored the 2010 bestselling book “Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future,” and the forthcoming “Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success,” scheduled to be published later this year.

These days, Schawbel says, “Everyone is using (social media), everyone should use it, you’re gonna have to use it” in order to secure employment. “Your online identity is everything. If you’re not visible, if people can’t find you, if you don’t specifically tell people who you are, what you do and who you serve … you’re just not going to be able to compete in this economy.”

That doesn’t mean that good old-fashioned paper resumes are a thing of the past … yet. “It’s losing relevancy,” he explains, as employers rely more on social networking and media sites to gather information about job candidates. “Your resume depicts what you did in the past. Social networks are your ideas, how do you present yourself. It’s a lot of intangible things that really have an impact.”

As for selecting one social networking or media site over another, Schawbel advises, “You’ve gotta use them all. You’ve gotta see what’s going to work for you. It’s really an individual case.” For example, loading your virtual resume onto YouTube may seem like a great idea—as long as you’re comfortable speaking on camera. “Don’t do things because they’re cool or seem unique. Do it because you are the right person to do it, and you believe that it’s going to give you an edge over your competition,” he said.

Always keep in mind that the status updates you write, the photos you post and even the “Like” buttons you click, give employers an idea about the type of employee you’ll be and whether you are a good fit for their company. “That’s really important because what companies are looking for (is) someone with social skills, somebody who can fit into the corporate culture and not just do the job,” Schawbel says.

While posting family vacation photos to your profile likely won’t damage your online credibility, he explains, items that allude to drugs or alcohol use; focus on race, class and gender issues; or otherwise controversial subjects can “draw negative attention to you” and should be omitted or deleted.
Sarah, a graphic designer, carefully screens everything posted on her Facebook page because she knows it can come back to haunt her as she searches online for a position in her field. The 46-year-old found a job nearly three years ago via Craigslist, and is currently searching for a new one.

“I was trying to find alternate paths” to employment, she explains of her online search. “I had honestly never been on Craigslist before. … Lo and behold, there was a job posting. I probably had been watching (the site) for a couple of weeks before I saw it” and was hired for the position.

At the top of any online job hunters to-do list should be “figuring out ways to create situations where you meet people who work at the companies you want to work for,” Schawbel says.

Instead of searching online for specific jobs, research individuals “who know what jobs are available and can recommend you instead of just applying for a job and hoping you get a response.” Then, “find ways that you can provide value to them to make them more interested in you as a person. That’s what you need to do, and most people don’t.”

A good way to make such connections is through LinkedIn. Schawbel insists it is “mandatory” for anyone in the job market to have a profile on the site. “If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, employers might just completely pass you over.”

Without such a profile, he says, it lends the impression to employers that “you’re irrelevant. It looks like you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re not able to connect with other people and find information about other people and apply for jobs … so you’re really out of the mix.” Schawbel also recommends accepting each invitation you receive to join others’ LinkedIn networks to build your own network of career contacts.

It is vitally important to manage and protect your reputation online. The easiest way to do that is to occasionally search the Internet for your own name. If you’re not happy with the results, Schawbel advises changing them by creating content such as blog entries, writing articles and guest posts on others’ websites. That step “shows that you’re interesting, you’re knowledgeable and you’re somebody that (people) can reach out to for help or to hire you,” he explained.

Also, be sure to link the content that you’ve written to your own online profiles. “You just keep building and building,” says Schawbel, “and eventually if someone Googles you, you know what’s gonna come up and you’re proud of it.”