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About a year and a half ago, my confidence took a solid beating. I had lost a job that I thought I was going to have a future with. Then, I got sucked into the tiresome cycle of temporary assignments that just generally wore on me. I was tired of starting over. I was tired of being underutilized. I was tired of having to go through the stressful cycle of job hunting each time the assignments ended. My resume was lost in the ATS black hole and being rejected interview after interview was not helping whatever little faith I had left in myself. I let questions like “what did I do wrong?” or “why am I not good enough?” or “why doesn’t anyone want to hire me?” torture me on the many nights that insomnia took over. Staring at the four walls of my apartment with the feelings of fading hope for the future put me in a dark place. I was defeated.
The negativity I felt about myself was the reason why I couldn’t move forward. Whether the failures or shortcomings were true or not, I let them waste valuable time I could have spent building myself up. Eventually, I let my “like-a-phoenix” mentality take over and I rose from those ashes. This time I was going to be the one telling people who I was and what I could do, not the other way around. I would be the one defining myself. I didn’t want to settle for something that didn’t feel right just so I could be employed on a permanent basis. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation that completely buried whatever little spark I had left. I was meant for more.
My newly found motivation caused me to reevaluate myself. I took the time to remember what I loved about working, my industry, and business as a whole. I considered what I wanted to be known for in the industry (at the time, I didn’t realize I was branding myself). Instead of trying so hard to fit neatly in the box that job descriptions put candidates in, I decided to go rogue. I brought my knowledge and experience to life. I gave it a voice and a purpose.
At first I gained momentum by sharing thought-provoking questions in relevant online groups. I was consistent and kept the conversation going. I made myself available to network with people further. Eventually, these conversations sparked my need to share my learnings. From there, my blog was born and I dedicated time to write to it regularly, sometimes even up to five times a week. I realized that the blog was a good portfolio builder but how was I going to get the word out? Social media was the answer and I ended up coming across a whole new world of business and social learning because of it. Discovering this social side of business changed the way I saw business overall. I was entranced.
The right person saw what I was doing and a few weeks later I landed a job. After achieving the ultimate goal I was aiming for (employment), I would have thought all of the effort I was putting in would eventually die down. Little did I know, all of these things became a part of who I am. What I did while I was trying to regain footing after my failure ended up changing my work ethic. It created my personal brand. It gave me something to be accountable for. More importantly, it allowed me to add value to my employer on a consistent basis.
Doing this has afforded me so many opportunities, personally and professionally, that gives me a sense of pride. I stopped waiting for people to tell me whether they thought I was ready or not and consistently made myself a better person on my own. I’m impressed with how much I grew once I broke through the barriers. I’m ecstatic that an employer not only saw this in me, but I’m also glad that they help keep that fire burning within myself. I’m grateful for my failure because it’s the reason why I am who I am today.
When I thought about the ideal job hunt, I always had believed that to be the most professional and proactive hunter, it was best to update your resume often and simply upload them to career websites. In addition to this, I was led to believe that the best way to get my resume in front of a recruiter was to apply to jobs online through job boards and applicant tracking systems. After all, these systems were put in place to help our resume be re-routed to the appropriate person, right? That used to work just fine until everyone else started to resort to this option. Now I realize that job seekers need to do something more to really set themselves apart. Over the course of the last few months, it became apparent that creating a personal brand via online can really help you during your job hunt.
I always assumed that doing anything online or on social media was typically considered something personal. I also heard the stories about how companies Google candidates to find these sites to do a quick “background” check before considering them for an interview. When I was in college, many teachers and guidance counselors told us to keep our online presence private or to delete anything that can potentially cause us to lose a job. With all these warnings, I never felt that having an online presence would help me land the job that I wanted. But after months of searching and being unsuccessful, I decided to give it a try.
To play it safe, I decided to keep my personal social media accounts private but then decided to create separate accounts strictly for business and maintaining a professional appearance. Of course, I decided to focus on LinkedIn first because that site is all about networking business professionals. It didn’t really pick up steam, though, until I invested more time into it. Putting up a profile with your experience isn’t enough to catch the attention of recruiters. You really need to participate. Here are some things I did on LinkedIn that helped me get more job interviews:
- Update profile content and headline. Use keywords relevant to what you’re searching for so recruiters can find you easier.
- Join groups. Joining groups are great but you must make sure you take time to participate in order to really allow yourself to get exposure. Comment on members’ discussion posts in a way that can show you are knowledgeable about a subject. Even post your own discussion questions on there to welcome interaction.
- Keep the conversation flowing. In order to network effectively and build relationships, you must invest in time to keep the conversation going. If you comment on something or post a discussion question, make sure you respond to those who are also commenting. This flow of communication can help people get to know you better and open up an opportunity to connect.
- Post interesting articles. Spark up some further conversation by posting online articles, publications, blogs, etc. This could grasp people’s attention and also display the fact that you keep up with industry trends.
- Get personal. If you plan on sending a message or an invite, be sure to add something personal in the message. If you’re adding a recruiter, you could even mention that you’ve applied to a specific position at their company and wanted to talk more about it. This could help them pull your resume from the pile of hundreds they get regularly.
After I got LinkedIn up and running, I decided to take it a step further and see what Twitter had to offer. I used to use Twitter sporadically since 2009 and never really thought it could be useful for anything more than personal use. I was SO wrong. After using Twitter in a professional capacity, I ended up receiving more job offers, interviews, and assistance to find a job than I ever did when I used to just apply to online job boards. I couldn’t believe it. Here are some ways I effectively used Twitter during my job hunt:
- Add people that are relevant to the industry you’re trying to get a job in.
- Add recruiters that work at the companies you are interested in working at.
- Write thoughtful responses to their tweets to help open up communication.
- Tweet links to relevant online articles, publications, blogs, etc.
- And most IMPORTANTLY, join Twitter chats(this was the easiest way I was able to get interviews.) Twitter chats are amazing. It opens up real-time communication and could help you get exposure to the right people. Some TweetChats I’ve joined that were really great for my job hunt were:
- #JobHuntChat – Mondays @ 10PM EST
- #TalentNet – Tuesdays @ 7PM EST
- #TChat – Wednesday @ 7PM EST
- #GenYChat- Wednesday @ 9PM EST
- #HFChat – Friday @ 12PM EST
These chats are either geared towards connecting job seekers with recruiters or the chats are HR related which means you can easily connect with HR and recruiters. Of course, these are just a few chats of the many that are out there. I would suggest researching chats that are relevant to the industry or job type you are looking for.
After a while, I really started to enjoy the results I was getting from this and decided to take it even another step further. I created a blog that was relevant to the industry I was targeting (Human Resources) and started to write on a regular basis to help extend my online presence even more. I promoted it via LinkedIn and Twitter. This blog has helped recruiters to see my competency, knowledge, and even get to know a little more about me. They were able to see how I could fit in with their company. If you are able to do something virtually that is relevant to the industry you want to work in, give it a try. It could really help you stand out even more and add something extra to your candidate profile.
Having an online presence can really help you if you do it right. Keep it professional but also keep it YOU. Your online presence can help hiring managers, recruiters, and companies really get an idea of who you are and what you could potentially do for them. I was happy to see that investing time in this has paid off. After committing time to this, I was able to get job interviews, internship offers, and guest blog post offers. I felt that I made more progress doing it this way than the months I spent just dedicating time to job boards and online applications. Give it a try, it could make a huge difference.