In recent years, social media has transformed from a convenient way for college friends to stay in touch to an essential tool for professional networking and personal branding. In her new book, Social Networking for Career Success: Using Online Tools to Create a Personal Brand, career expert Miriam Salpeter shares the ins and outs of social networking.
Miriam was kind enough to answer some of my questions about how young professionals can maximize their professional use of social media.
LP: What does social networking have to do with career success?
MS: In a competitive market, success seekers need to do what they can to differentiate themselves and highlight their value propositions. Social networking is an amazing tool to do just that. Here are two major reasons why: 1) social media offers users a chance to share their expertise and 2) using these tools can connect them to people they would probably never otherwise know; those people may be exactly the ones to introduce careerists to a targeted contact.
LP: How can people use social media to illustrate their expertise?
MS: All of the networks I highlight in the book, especially LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and blogging, make it easy to let your network know what you do and how you solve problems. Sharing expertise can be as easy as sharing a link to a relevant article along with a smart comment on Facebook or Twitter. It’s as simple as answering a question via LinkedIn with insight and expert information. Don’t underestimate the potential these connections may offer.
LP: What’s the best social network for job seekers?
MS: The first place job seekers should spend time is on LinkedIn. It is the go-to hub of professional networking and continues to expand the ways it allows job seekers to connect and extend their networks, especially via the Answers section and by using Groups.
That said, my favorite network is Twitter, because it is so open, and allows users to find, follow and interact with people they otherwise would never know. Once users find a community of people in their field to follow and communicate with, Twitter can provide a constant stream of information, professional development opportunities (right on your desktop), information about specific jobs and the chance to connect directly with colleagues, mentors and prospective bosses.
LP: Most young professionals are primarily active on Facebook. Can that site be used in a professional way? If so, how?
I admit, I hesitated at first to suggest using Facebook for professional reasons. However, when you think of the sheer number of people using Facebook (so many more than any other network), and the fact that 27% of firms locate hires via personal referrals from employees, it makes sense to “be where they are” and consider how to harness Facebook’s power for job hunting.
I advise readers to do a careful audit of their Facebook profiles and to remove anything a potential employer may consider objectionable. This includes photos inappropriate for professional environments, “trash-talking” comments, excessive negative comments (no one wants to hire Debbie Downer) and memberships in groups such as “I hate Mondays” or “Working is for suckers.”
I advise setting privacy settings for “just friends” for everything except for “About Me” (write a professional bio), “Education and Work” and “Contact Info.” Opening these sections to “everyone” helps recruiters using Facebook find you and also allows various Facebook applications, such as BranchOut, Jibe.com and SimplyHired.com’s Facebook tool to connect you with potential opportunities.
LP: You say social media can connect people to others they’d otherwise never meet. How can that help a young job seeker?
MS: Any job seeker or business owner’s goal is to be found. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, outlines how important it is to broaden your network – to meet and connect with “weak ties,” people who previously had no direct relationship with you – in order to find contacts who can help. Touching base with people beyond your immediate network may be just the thing you need to connect with someone who can really help you propel your plans forward.
Another thing many not already involved in social media don’t realize: online connections have a tendency to be extremely generous and willing to help. The book is full of stories of people who received crucial help from strangers online.