Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Year of Job Hunting, part 2

Part 1 is here.

How does one network well? If your previous job wasn't in sales or fundraising, networking may be one of your underdeveloped skills. Here's my advice:

2. Get Social!

You may have heard the stories of people who got themselves fired, lost a client, or had their job offer rescinded because of what they posted on internet social networking platforms. Being mean, complaining, or over-sharing on an online social network is foolish because A) it's very difficult to lock down access to only the few individuals who want to be alerted every time your brain synapses fire, and B) the internet is forever: what you say now could come back to haunt you in five or ten years.

On the other hand, giving the internet the silent treatment ends up sending a glaring message of its own. People who can't be found on facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter are perceived to be technologically challenged. Being concerned about getting your identity stolen is good - just use healthy skepticism and make sure all your passwords are not guessable based on your personal information.

You can show your great combination of technical competency and communicative self-control by managing your online social networking well. This is part of managing your personal brand and professional reputation.

I am someone who has "authenticity" very high in my mix of values. I like honesty and openness. So when I first heard someone talking about managing their personal brand, I rolled my eyes and scoffed. However, I use this phrase to mean "helping people's perception of your motives and personality correspond accurately to your real motives and personality." Of course, you can manage your brand to hide the real you - but the truth will out eventually.

As a job seeker, use the online social networks as a tool in your job search. They are not ways to pass the time in between submitting job applications. In its most basic use, LinkedIn is a great way to connect with other professionals who could help you land a job and it shows potential employers your professionalism. At its most basic, facebook allows you to connect with old friends and extended family, and also can bring your job hunt back to the forefront of your friends' minds - they have a vague recollection that you were looking for a job awhile back, but a status update every couple weeks about your job hunt will remind them to keep their eyes and ears open for job opportunities for you. At its most basic, Twitter allows you to help publicize news stories and social initiatives that matter to you and tells recruiters how well-rounded you are. There are many other social networks, but these are the big three right now.

If you say something controversial on the web, make sure you are okay with the consequences: being eliminated from potential job offerings by companies who are managing their corporate brand image. If you try to be facetious, sarcastic, or hyperbolic in status updates, make sure that a total stranger would see that you're not serious. It would be better to add, "Just kidding!" to the end of a post than to lose a job offer because you were misunderstood.

When I was in college, I was a Resident Assistant, which basically meant that it was my job to keep everyone on my floor of the dormitory living in peace and harmony and following the college's rules. Since I thought that sarcasm and harshness were hilarious, I spoke to the other residents the way I wanted to be talked to: by being mean. "Turn down your stereo, are you stupid or something?!" Ha ha, that's funny to everyone, right? Nope. Turns out, most the guys who didn't know me before I was an R.A. thought that I was just a bad person who enjoyed making other people feel bad. Once I figured out that my message wasn't being received as intended, I learned how to communicate better by taking the other person's assumptions and preferences into account. For some residents, I could be sarcastic and jokey as I told them to quiet down, for others I needed to be straightforward and respectful. In the same way, if we post a status update, retweet something a celebrity said, or link to a news article, our intentions can easily be misinterpreted if we don't take our audience's assumptions into consideration.

One of my professors in college called this idea, "the locus of control." We don't take responsibility for our own communication (or for our time management or other decisions) and instead blame other people when something goes wrong. Instead, realize that the locus of control for our lives is, for the most part, in ourselves. Take control of how other people, especially recruiters and hiring managers, see you by managing your brand on social networks.

What do you think? Do you have any strategies for being interpreted the way you intend or managing your brand online?

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