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While some of the rules remain the same whether you network in person or online, the sheer size of social media communities has been a game-changer. "It's borderless," says Kirstine Stewart, vice-president of Twitter's North American media partnerships and Canadian Living's April guest editor. "You can find yourself in a conversation with anyone—even a major international CEO." So if you're looking to expand your contacts, grow your career or land a new job, social media should be part of your plan for success. Here's how to do it.
Make a positive first impression
Your social media profile provides others with immediate insight into who you are. The short bio that appears next to your name is the first thing potential contacts notice—think of it as the new handshake. But it's up to you to make them take notice. "When building your profile, indicate what your interests are and where you've gained professional experience," suggests Stewart, adding that inserting a link to a personal website is a great way to drive people to even more information about you and your capabilities.
A photo is an important part of your profile, but if you aren't comfortable sharing your picture online, there are alternatives. "Many people use places, things and sayings that represent their personalities and identities," says Stewart. "Don't be afraid to add some personal flair. Fun pictures and videos help you promote yourself in more than just 140 characters." But don't get carried away: Provocative or inappropriate photos and evidence of inebriation are some of the reasons employers pass on candidates after they've viewed their social media accounts.
Connect with the right social media community
On social media, the world, and the workforce, are at your fingertips; it's up to you to decide with whom to connect. "Follow people and companies that inspire you professionally," says Stewart, explaining that this will allow you to keep tabs on trends within your industry and engage with people who have similar professional goals. "Connect with people you admire or aspire to work with. Asking for advice or offering an opinion on a specific topic engages you with other people who are talking about the things that interest you."
And since social media platforms are intuitive systems, they'll help you expand your network beyond your first-degree contacts, suggesting new people with whom to engage based on your existing connections. "The more Twitter accounts you follow in the same interest group, the more you will get followers back," says Stewart. Don't get too hung up on the number of followers or connections, though; how many contacts you have doesn't necessarily correspond to how engaged they are.
Participate in conversation
Stewart refers to social media as an extension of your personality, so as such, your posts should reflect the things you enjoy talking about in real life. "The content I share changes all the time," she says. "I like sharing news and insights about media. I also like interacting with those in my network and sharing information I find interesting or of value to my followers."
But keep in mind: While the breadth of online networking is an advantage in many ways, it can also be a drawback. Since anything you say can be seen by the world (or Twitter-verse), it's important not to post anything you would be wary of saying to your business associates over coffee. A 2014 survey from CareerBuilder found that 43 percent of employers use social media to research job candidates, and 51 percent of those have decided against a candidate based on what they've found, such as posts that displayed negative remarks about previous employers, discriminatory comments or poor communication skills. Luckily, when you're behind a computer or smartphone, you have more opportunity to think your words through so you can be sure to present yourself positively.
Broaden your social media horizons
On social media, you can pay attention to what people are liking, retweeting and so on to measure how others are receiving your posts. Having trouble getting others to engage? Join existing conversations that interest you. "Using popular hashtags as they relate to your professional industry will allow you to be part of the larger conversation," says Stewart. Simply adding that little tag means anyone who's following that hashtag will see your comment in their feed. It's an easy way to introduce yourself to others who are participating in similar discussions.
Choose your social media circle
Different platforms offer different ways to make valuable career contacts. We help you decide which ones are right for you.
On Twitter, everyone is engaged in conversation—often multiple conversations at once!—so you can follow potential employers or clients and pick up on their interests; then, when you have enough context to add your own intelligent perspective, jump into the discussion—no awkward introductions necessary. Feel free to tweet people you admire (keeping in mind that everyone else who follows that person, and you, will also see the tweet) or send a direct private message to someone from whom you'd like advice.
Instagram can be a great place to create a portfolio of your successes. If the fruits of your labour can be portrayed in images, this is the place to do it; food photos can speak volumes about a chef, and pictures of great events can build a publicist's profile. Just make sure selfies aren't getting in the way of work photos.
You may already be using Facebook with friends and family, so it's important to adjust your privacy settings to keep your personal activity hidden from professional contacts. Many employers check candidates' Facebook pages, and it's not just inappropriate photos or comments that could be judged. You can also use Facebook to research companies you'd want to work for, and to tell friends when you're looking for work so they can reach out to their networks.
This career-oriented social network is a no-brainer for making contacts, but many people simply use it as a place to post résumés. That's just the beginning: Use LinkedIn to reach out to all of your former coworkers (they could be connected to people with whom you'd want to work in the future), search for potential contacts in your area and join groups where people in your field are engaged in discussions. You can also scope out which companies have job openings in your area of expertise.
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|This story was originally part of "#careerboost" in the April 2015 issue. |
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