Spinning your job-search web

"I'm just about to start a job-hunt as it's a new year. What's the best way I can run my search campaign using an online presence? I've been told I need a blog to be effective, is that right?"

This was an email question from Benny. Variations on this theme crop up regularly so I thought I'd run through the basics of what makes for a suitable online presence when you're looking for a job. Sadly, it's all too easy to waste time on a grail-hunt because someone somewhere says you need something you haven't yet got.

Think about your objectives

Use an online presence to showcase your skills and experience, as you might do offline on a CV. Get people to your online information by:

  • give people you come into contact with links to it;
  • get your contacts to refer other people to it;
  • aim for search-engine referrals.

So would a blog help?

I would suggest, if you don’t already have one, starting one in a panic is not going to help you much. Blogs take time to create, time to grow and time to propagate around the search engines and relevant communities. They're more use as part of a medium or long term strategy.

The only exception would be if you're chasing a career where, say, the extent of your writing skill is important to selection. In that case start now! Put at least one post up, but make it high quality. Then spend time on it when you can, but don't do that at the expense of the more vital elements of your online presence.

The same goes for websites, vines, YouTube videos, picture-posting sites, etc. If they're relevant to selection in your field, go for it but otherwise, panic won't help much in the short term.

The lesson is ….

Choose your social media platforms carefully and maintain them professionally.

There are five main tasks to undertake, in priority order:

  1. Build a focussed profile;
  2. Access job / organisation / career information;
  3. Create a relevant network of contacts;
  4. Raise your professional reputation;
  5. Target, research and interact with potential employers.

Notice that reaching out to potential employers is last. When you make contact with someone, they'll immediately check you out online to see whether you're worth considering.

You don't want them to find tumbleweed blowing across your LinkedIn page, a blogpost from when you were a fresher and a Twitter account declaring your love for Justin Bieber.

Get your basic online presence sorted, it doesn't take long.

1 Build a focussed profile

This is challenging because CVs and applications should be tailored to the organisation you're engaging with, whereas you don't know who'll be looking at, say, your LinkedIn profile and when.

Online, you therefore need to choose your ground and stand on it. That may force you to make some hard decisions.

For example, you might be an engineer and like both design and project management. If your online presence shows both, you risk a potential employer choosing someone who does know what they want to do, no matter how brilliant you might be.

Either make up your mind which way you see your career developing, or keep everything vague and open.

I'm wary of naming the platforms relevant to you, but personally I find LinkedIn a great place to maintain an up to date summary profile. It seems to be widely accepted as a 'professional' platform so there is no harm in rolling with it in any case, even if you use other social media channels more relevant to your style or field.

2 Access job / organisation / career information

Search not just the job boards and social media channels, but use your online presence to research target industries, organisations and people.

3 Create a relevant network of contacts

Someone said, "your network is your net worth, build it carefully." They were right. Use the channels that are right for you to build up your circle of contacts. Don’t think of 'wanting', think of giving instead. Contribute. Help people. When you need it, that investment will pay you back in spades.

4 Raise your professional reputation

If you have the time, by all means reach for the blog, YouTube or whatever. If you don't, find relevant discussions to hang around and post on. Try and become respected for your insightful views, definitely not for your bigoted, fixed POV rantings!

5 Target, research and interact with potential employers

Look to engage in conversations and exchanges with people in or around your target organisations. Try and build up relationships. Once you've established contact and got through the pleasantries, be clear about your intentions.

There's no shame in openly looking for a position and directly asking who is the right person to be talking to. If you've run your networking and relationship building correctly, people will be more than pleased to point you in the right direction because it will reflect well on them.

In summary …

The trick is run your online presence in a way that shows what you've got to offer. It's better to do that in a direct and simple way than to get lost with overly ambitious plans which don't fully reflect your professionalism.

Make sure to show where you could really add value to an organisation in your chosen role, over and above the average that your peers might offer.

Once you're happy with your online presence, venture out. Search. Make contact. Run your job-search it in a systematic, planned and structured way, but be mindful of how you're interacting with others.

Good luck.