Status update: new job

 21 March 2011

How often do you check Facebook? When did you last tweet? Switching between the endless roster of social networking sites is a tempting way to kill time. But used efficiently, it can be an investment in your future.

Yash Ozbaris uses an online portfolio to stay in contact with casting directors.
Yash Ozbaris uses an online portfolio to stay in contact with casting directors.

You know their names, but which ones have you used?

There are literally hundreds of social networking sites: LinkedIn for business professionals, Ravelry for knitters, Taltopia for performance artists. Whatever your interests, there’s an online social networking community for you.

Social networking has many benefits. It’s free, easy to access and opens up communication possibilities. It’s also having an impact on the way people search for and find jobs.

Some employers advertise jobs online that will never be advertised elsewhere so you’re more likely to hear about opportunities if you’re networking in the right place.

Tweet with care

Social media has broken down barriers. It is now easier than ever to make direct contact with people, even future bosses. 

When you sign up to a social networking site, whether Twitter, Facebook or any other, you will create a profile of yourself. This is what prospective employers will see first, so treat it like a CV: include all your relevant experience and keep it up to date.

You’ll then need to connect with people to create a network. Search for people you already know, then look at their contacts as you may find more useful people there. But be choosy who you’re following and try and keep them relevant. Don’t pick anyone that may cause conflict with a future employer if you’re trying to impress them.

When leaving comments on forums, write things you want to be known for. Remember that every post you write online is searchable and may come back and haunt you in the future. Paying attention to your spelling and grammar is important.

How to build an online presence

Building an online presence is key to getting noticed. It’s a bit like branding and developing an image that immediately becomes associated with you.

To achieve this, your profile and voice need to be consistent. This means having the same  username for every site and using the same profile photograph (the more professional the better). If your username isn’t your own name, it should be something relevant to you. Your email address should also be professional if you want to be taken seriously.

There are various tricks to get you spotted in cyberspace. Singer/songwriter Henrik benefits from ‘tagging’ when he uploads content about himself.

‘My music is similar to artists like Sigur Ros and Elliot Smith, so tagging my music with them allows it to be listed alongside their music. This makes it easier for fans of these artists to hear about me, as will other people interested in this genre of music.’

Henrik joined MySpace back in 2005, at a point when it was very much a place for musicians to launch themselves. Success stories like The Arctic Monkeys are testimony to the potential of sites like this, but being on there isn’t enough – you still need to be active.

Promoting yourself online

Remember that every post you write online is searchable and may come back and haunt you in the future.

You should also have a main place that you can direct people to. Usually this is a personal website that gives links to your other social networking sites. Henrik's website is a key tool for people to contact him.

‘It makes it easier for people to get in touch, especially if I meet people once. But your own website will not generate as much traffic as a social networking website. I mainly use Facebook, although it’s an ingredient in the wider promotion work I do.’

Model and television presenter Yash Ozbaris uses an online portfolio of his photographs as the easiest way to stay in contact with casting directors.

‘I keep a Fan Page on Facebook where I upload my latest photographs. It’s useful to get feedback on my portfolio and it means I can share my images with other models who’ve passed my photos onto their agents. I’ve been contacted for jobs from people who’ve seen me this way and that’s what makes social networking such a positive experience.’

Promotion is essential to standing out from the crowd. Rather than just talking about yourself, become an expert by recommending resources, offering insights and advice. These are just as valuable as writing about what you’re up to. Reference as many other people in your field as you can, it’s courteous and may get you noticed by them.

After spending 17 years as a cameraman, Philip Bloom started writing a blog offering filming advice. He began receiving 700-800 emails a day from fans seeking his help. Unbeknown to him, his blog was discovered by the legendary Lucas Films, who were so impressed with his film knowledge they recruited him for a job. Today Philip spends three hours a day social networking and he uses Twitter to recruit his own assistants; advertising for freelancers such as sound recordists.

Job searching on social networks

Social media has broken down barriers. It is now easier than ever to make direct contact with people, even future bosses. Find recruiters, organisations or events that you want to work with and follow their profiles. These are the first places that jobs may be advertised.

Don’t be afraid to contact people directly. You could start by introducing yourself, mentioning what you’re currently up to and asking whether there’s any assistance you can provide.

Twitter has its own Job Search function: TwitJobSearch. You can search for key words in the latest job adverts that are posted on the site. It’s worth checking regularly. Social networking is instant, so speed is everything.

Keeping ahead of social media trends

Building an online presence is like branding. Develop an image that immediately becomes associated with you.

Both Henrik and Yash have moved away from MySpace, as traffic has decreased in recent months. Instead they are focussing on the websites that have maintained their momentum. Yash has a profile on a modelling network site called Model Mayhem, while Henrik aims to start making better use of YouTube.

Whereas a decade ago it was the norm for musicians to send demo tapes into record companies, today sending a web link is better. As Henrik explains, ‘I’m going to create a YouTube channel where I can upload my performances. This could mean recording an acoustic track each week and putting it online for feedback, recording live gigs or video diary style entries. One of the benefits of YouTube is that it’s not going anywhere and it’s very much an international phenomenon.’

Yash aims to continue his own PR through Facebook, but as soon as the next big social networking site comes along he’ll make sure he’s part of it. And that’s the main thing to bear in mind when you’re going down the social networking route. Try it, keep an open mind and stay on top of developments in the industry. Jobs are out there if you connect with them in the right way.

Use social networking as part of a multi layered approach. Don’t abandon traditional methods completely. Even if you’re not looking for a job, when you next are, if you already have an established social network, you may find your next position a whole lot easier to find.

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