“Pound the pavement.”
This is what I was told in the mid 1990s when I asked my father how I was supposed to find a job after school. I was encouraged to visit every local business and tell them I was looking for a job (not ask if they are hiring). Sooner or later, I would find something.
Luckily at that time, job seekers with more substantial than “after-school, work for pocket money” career needs had other tools at their disposal. Online job boards were emerging and recruiters were always ready to assist. Professional staffing firms, though not a new presence in the dot com era, plied their craft at the time by telephone, phone book and Rolodex.
The presence of job boards grew in the mid to late 90s, and by the turn of the millennium, the popularity was boiling over. Over the last ten years, sites like CareerBuilder, Monster and Dice have made it extremely easy for job seekers to submit their resumes online and apply for new opportunities without having to leave their own living rooms, home offices or gaming command centers (basements); without having to speak or even interact with another human being until it came time for an interview. What a phenomenon! Unfortunately, ease does tend to breed complacency and, in today’s job market; just using job boards to look for work just doesn’t cut it. Only the strong that are willing to adapt and embrace change will survive.
There is no clever phrase we can tell job seekers today who are mired in the past and need to find a new job, (“ePound the ePavement?”), but it is quite clear that the game has, in fact, changed, and social media is now a large part of obtaining a job. When you’re not meeting in-person or over the phone with people (you know, people, those funny biped mammals that open their mouths and say words; people that can introduce you to other people?) in your professional network, you should be spending your time and energy enhancing your personal brand on LinkedIn, Twitter and similar media.
Whether you are unsure about where to begin or have already toed these waters and are interested in going deeper, here are some tips to better market yourself as a professional in 2013 and help take your search beyond the boards.
Get your resume ready.
The first step of any job search process is to prepare your resume to be viewed by prospective employers. Most companies still do require you to submit a resume with any application and you will certainly want to appear for an interview with a clean, crisp copy.
Spend time on it; I see an alarming number of resumes daily that I would be utterly ashamed to present as a representation of myself. It is highly likely that your resume’s content will be the first and only impression of you, so take the extra time to ensure accurate details, truthful content (yes, sadly this is something that does actually need to be said), proper spelling and grammar, succinct details (especially if you will be sharing via social media), and don’t forget to make it sexy.
Form a trusted social network and be an active contributor.
The key word here is trusted. A hot issue here is whether or not to accept unknown or unsolicited contact requests on social media networks such as LinkedIn. Personally, I think it’s fine to accept these types of requests, as long as you make an effort to introduce yourself to the person, learn what they are all about and treat them as a true member of your professional network. Asking to add someone else to your network should be handled in the same way. If you don’t know the person, try to get someone to introduce you. If that isn’t possible, a kind, well-articulated email or note of introduction is always appreciated and is leagues more courteous than a blind connection request.
Choose your most professional and trusted connections to follow. Follow recruiters who post jobs that you are interested in and try to ensure that your profile is always relevant and as appropriate to your goals as possible. While I’m a geek at heart and have a deep appreciation for memes, there’s always a time and place; you don’t want to be inundated by hourly updates of Cousin Jane’s “lolcat” pictures when you’re hard at work searching for your next career opportunity.
Get active in your online social community. Share relevant articles, provide industry insight and ‘Like’ what you like. Start a blog. Chronicle your job search and even share your missteps, so you can see where you went wrong. Join user groups that match your skills and networking goals; this is a great way to meet other professionals (and you never know who they may be able to introduce you to).
Optimize your profiles.
SEO (search engine optimization) is not just for websites looking for traffic. If you are a strong Java programmer or have other specialized skills, mention them (be thorough but concise); if a hiring manager or recruiter has a matching job to fill, you want him or her to be able to find you. Choose search-friendly wording for skill sets, past job descriptions and titles. If possible, ask professional contacts or former employers to write recommendations for you.
Stay in touch, and work with those who stay in touch with you.
Do your best to keep all lines of communication open. If you’re working with recruiters, choose to work with those who respond promptly, follow up regularly and treat you like a human being rather than a dollar sign. Feel free to send an updated resume, inquire about a posted opening or to reach out regularly for a simple check-in; it’s the best way to keep yourself on the top of a recruiter’s contact list. I obviously can’t look at every single resume out there that has been quietly posted on the job boards, but I will always read a resume or a check-in message that someone sends to me directly.
Here at EDI Specialists, we’re all about cultivating relationships. We make it a point to set ourselves apart from other staffing agencies by staying in contact with people, both short-term and long-term. To me, it really seems like a no-brainer, but people constantly tell me that we are the only company that follows up regularly as a courtesy, even if we have no interview feedback or no specific job description to share. This means that it is the norm for people to be left wondering whether their resume was ever seen or even whether they are still being kept in mind. This is a truly sad thing in an age where it is easier than ever to keep in touch, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s work together to forge a lasting professional relationship for years to come.
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