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Social Networking for "The Pursuit of Career": 10 Solid Steps

"Using the social media network to land a design job (or any industry nowadays) is of the utmost importance in today's instant gratification rush, rush society. You can not be lazy anymore, nor can you be quiet." – K. Rudolph

Chances are if you can't "Google" your own name, with a few successful hits fairly quickly, you may not be a candidate for that next job after all. (Sadly, I myself am working to heighten my own exposure in the web world and I hardly come up even though I designed my own web site, Facebook account, Twitter feed, LinkedIn job profile, Flickr portfolio and Wordpress blog) (oh, and I almost forgot, my myspace account too – I should probably remove that one).

Today's need for social media is an essential new part of proving your worth in both technical and non-technical fields. (FYI – Every field seems to be pretty technically oriented even if it is a more "classic industry".)

Digital resumes come in drones to employers and human resources (HR) faculties these days. These have been printed off their web sites and stacked into piles for well more than ten years. A quick glance is all it takes to head to the recycle bin but sometimes you might not even get that far. Now two piles are beginning to be formed; the social networking/interoffice pile of referrals and the pile where you found the job (the newspaper or online through a direct hit by visiting a company web site or an indirect search such as monster.com, jobsearch.com or careerbuilder.com) to, in the end, locate company X.

Now besides needing the know-how to exceed the job description (or in the very least come close to matching the job requirements of what was once four different people's degrees working in a 50+hour/week position), you now have to do something else to separate yourself from the pack.

Gone are the days of funny shaped business cards with attachments of portfolio samples and sleek text resumes sent in large manila envelopes. Still, even sadder, is the decreased frequency that an employer has to view your own web site, especially if there is any splash page animation or software that puts them in a holding pattern to lose patience and prematurely leave.

With the advent of baby boomers holding out to retire, and the tighter economy with people doing the jobs of more than one trained individual, it is essential to help HR by giving them less work. So what, in my opinion, are you supposed to do? Here is what I have learned:

1. Try, rinse and repeat

It sucks, but it is a bitter truth that looking for a job is it's own full-time endeavor. If you keep complaining and don't actually try to seek areas within your interests the only person to blame is yourself. If you can snag an interview for even a lukewarm prospect it can provide you with experience allowing yourself to see what sort of questions hiring departments currently seek.

2. Stop visiting sites like monster.com, jobsearch.com and careerbuilder.com unless you are in a more general search

Job sites such as the ones listed above only account for about 5% of all company postings. These sites view your resume and contrive it to mean anything to fill the most generic positions. It begins when you join their career alerts, receiving a flood of constant spam and unrelated sales and manufacturing jobs,and ends when that crazy Ginsu knife company cold calls you for an "instant" interview to be their head of marketing (if it's too good to be true it probably is folks). If you are in a more specialized industry (like design) auto-generators on these sites won't match you to anything applicable.

If you need to choose a local job because of family roots or lack a of a car or nearby public transportation then take a look at portals such as vault.com, or snagajob.com to find local hourly part or full-time jobs (I found 221 jobs in Canton, MI, most of which were retail based). Most importantly, avoid signing up for these sites "applicable matches". Just visit the site weekly so you can scroll quickly through your areas of interest rather than getting roped into receiving unrelated spam that takes away valuable web time.

3. Volunteer in your passionate path

Whether you work part-time at an industry that's not your passion, or you are out-of-work, don't be lazy and just sit there collecting unemployment until the next extension. Part of an active job search should be recognizing what you want to do and start seeing people face-to-face in order to build opportunities, even if they are not paid. Recent graduates should seek out internships (see online internship sites). Seasoned veterans should volunteer to keep your resume/skills current. Volunteering can also put you in a positive mindset to help you feel needed (think of the movie "Pay It Forward" all while making a difference to someone else (I like volunteer sites such as idealist.org or just seek out a company you are interested in (people like free things). Making yourself invaluable turns you into an asset and so in the end, if you are worth your weight in gold, they may just hire you.

3. Create a digital network 

Get your name on the web and then tell people that you put it there. Start with trusted friends or coworkers in your current situation (even a part-time associate at a current or past employer has co-workers or friends that may know someone). See tomorrow's article for specifics on how to use Linked-In to accomplish this task.

4. Once your name is out there, start linking yourself

The more links you have, the better your exposure rate. Just be careful you don't "friend" people who have inappropriate conversations or links (they are a reflection of yourself whether you like it or not). If you have a web site that no one is visiting start a free blog at a site such as blogger.com or wordpress.com. Update your Facebook profile to include important facts about yourself rather than general chatter. This way if someone (fellow friend or just a stumbler) is thinking about hiring, they may keep "running into" your name or portfolio without you directly positioning it. It's always nice to make them think it was their idea.

5. Relate to the industry directly

This has some crossover with number four. Think about what you want to do and begin joining the blogs and accounts of fellow people in that industry. Don't just look at generic social networks; visit the sites for the places you would love to work. It is becoming more common for companies to either be linked to a Facebook page or have a blog or thread of related social networking discussions somewhere within their web site.

6. Make a time limit

Don't look forever, set goals and a time line. Daily, weekly and monthly time limits force you to stay current. Set an alarm or a digital calendar blast that alerts you that today is a web blogging day or a research hour. Don't reflect, just do. Track your progress and don't get frustrated when the change is not apparent. Like my PT specialist says, it won't happen overnight, progress is slow (although he is referring to my desire to regenerate back movement).

7. Relax and watch a movie

Work hard for the day/week/month and then reward yourself. Little thing like watching a movie (library movies = free) won't dent your lack of a full Costanza wallet but they will help you escape and gain feel-good vibes. I recommend a movie like "The Blind Side" or if you are into flaky movies; "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" or Drew Barrymore in "Never Been Kissed" can help you feel better about yourself. If you ever need to remind yourself why you didn't like your last job there is always my favorite cult classic movie "Office Space" too.

8. Catch up on slowing down

If you've got more time, catch up on reading. If you have less time still try to set aside 15 minutes each evening. If you like computers read related blogs in your professional area. If you prefer carrying your favorite mobile device read digital magazines in your industry while you wait in life's lines. Seek to expand your vocabulary no matter what you choose. I like to get away from technology when I get home and read a book hearing the gentle turn of a page longing for the next paper cut (just kidding). You can read any sort of book to escape but make sure to occasionally read related industry information. Good Fortune 500 books that CEO's use can help you get into the head of your future employer such as the books linked here. I myself like some of what the career oriented minds of Seth Godin and Daniel Pink have to say. Other related business books can be found at inc.

9. Get out of the damn house

Your alma mater usually has social events. I just attended one last night for The University of Michigan alumni. Related clubs in your field of interest and fellow alumni groups have dinners and events more than you may know. Don't avoid going somewhere because you don't have the money. Many events for job searches, career days or networking functions are free but even small costs can have big returns.

If you really broke usually these events have light snacks too! If it's a pay your own way dinner and all you order is a glass of water the people around you might really understand your urgency in landing that next job. But seriously, nothing is lost when you attend these functions; it gets your face seen.

10. Make it a game

In the end make it a goal not a chore. Have contests with yourself. See how many resumes you can send out in one day or how many companies you can find within 10 miles of your house in your interest area.

Try to find as much out about some job related subject as you can and write about it (can you tell why I'm doing these social networking articles yet). These things not only help you stay current but it forwards your development and focus. It also changes your frame of mind and keeps you in-the-know.

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