What Your Online Presence Can Do for Your Job Hunt

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.

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How Will Your Career Benefit from Business Networking?

“It’s all about who you know,” I’d often hear people say to me while I was going to college. More seasoned professionals had constantly told me that in order to leverage my position into the working world, it was best if I knew someone. I figured that knowing someone wasn’t as important as getting the education and experience to prove that I was competent enough to do a job. However, I soon found out that the advice of getting to know people was important for my career. Getting knowledge and experience was great but if you didn’t know someone to display that to, then your career hunt could be a bust. Therefore, I’d like to focus today’s post on the benefits of business networking, both internally and externally.

Sometimes people underestimate the importance of networking (I was one of them at one point). As I network more and more, I really do see that there are some fantastic benefits to it. Networking can help your career in the following ways:

Externally:

  • Keep you abreast about industry trends: Networking can help you learn about industry trends, concepts, technology, news, and resources that you may have never easily learned about on your own. Additionally, talking to individuals that know more about this topic can allow you to get a deeper understanding and obtain knowledge that could give you a competitive edge for your job hunt.
  • Keep you in the loop about what companies are hiring: There are a lot of great companies out there that you may not know about. Networking can help you get exposure to companies that fit what you’re looking for but you haven’t discovered yet on your own. Additionally, finding companies that aren’t as well known could help you have less competition for the jobs you are applying to.
  • Allow you to know ASAP about job openings in the companies you are targeting: Companies don’t always post their jobs externally. Networking with people can allow you to know about job openings before others do, which could increase your chances of being selected.
  • Open up communication with other recruiters/hiring managers: Sometimes the people you network with won’t always have an opportunity for you. However, if you build these relationships they’ll be more willing to refer you to other individuals that do have openings and could put in a good word about you. Referrals are highly regarded.

 Internally:

  • Raise your professional profile within a company and/or industry: Networking internally could help you build your reputation in a positive light. You could go from the average employee to the go-to guru. Building clout this way could help you obtain a promotion at your current employer or become a desired employee that companies seek.
  • Get opportunities to work on special projects: Getting to know people can allow them to learn your interests and your abilities. Therefore, they could easily consider you for any upcoming projects in your workplace that are relevant to these. Having the opportunity to work on these special projects could help you gain useful experience and knowledge that will build your resume up nicely.
  • Showcase experience to correct hiring managers when attempting to get a promotion or raise: Your professional profile and contributions to special projects could easily catch the eye of the hiring managers in your workplace. These things can support your resume and could allow managers to confidently consider you for promotions or raises.

There are so many benefits networking can provide. I’ve started networking a lot more and wished that I had done it sooner. I’ve met so many interesting people that have taught me so much about the field I’m interested in and even more. These individuals have been so helpful and were willing to spread the word about my blog. They have also sent my resume out to their connections to help my job hunt. It’s been a joy networking with these people and I hope that I can pay forward the kindness they have shown me. I strongly suggest that you take time to build these relationships because they could be great for your career in the long run.

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Photo Source: Infovark

The Buzz on Gamification

As I’ve been conducting my research to find resources for my daily blog posts, I seemed to be spotting the word “gamification” popping up more and more. I became intrigued once I saw this term trending on a more regular basis and finally decided to investigate what all the hype was about. I had figured that it had something to do with video games or gaming of the sort, so you could imagine my pleasant surprise when I learned that it was much more than that. Gamification does involve some of the structure and competitive aspects of games, but this trend is used to help increase employee and/or customer engagement. Needless to say, the topic was perfect for my post today.

In short, gamification is the concept of integrating game-like function and processes into non-gaming activities. Some common consumer examples of this would be frequent flyer miles for airlines or hotel upgrades for hotel chains. However, gamification has taken on a whole new form for human resources. Companies now use this concept as a tool for recruiting, employee engagement, recognition/rewards, and employee wellness programs. Some examples of these are as follows:

  • Recruiting: Companies have created games that are similar to Facebook’s Farmville or The Sims, but customized a structure that is relevant to the company and job function. The idea is for candidates to virtually display their abilities to multitask, perform job functions, and handle unexpected issues. Recruiters are able to see the candidates’ activity and distinguish which individuals clearly display the competency and experience needed to successfully perform the job duties. It is considered to be a virtual way to “test drive” candidates before hiring them.
  • Employee Engagement: Gamification can tap into employees’ competitive side which will increase their motivation to do certain tasks. This can also help employees be more engaged while doing boring, mind-numbing functions.  In addition to motivation, this tool can allow employees to collaborate easily and work as a team towards organizational goals. Collaboration can help employees build relationships with one another which will also increase employee engagement.
  • Recognition/Rewards: Gamification can allow managers to see which employees are putting in the effort and also determine which employees have the qualities that are worthy of reward or promotion. This can give all employees an even playing field instead of allowing the more outgoing employees to have the upper hand in catching management’s attention. On the other hand, if a company does not have the resources for monetary rewards (which can be common with the downturn of the economy), gamification can give employees awards and recognition. Even a simple thank you or virtual award can go a long way with employees.
  • Health/Wellness Programs: Gamification can be a fantastic way to get your employees on a healthier track. For example, I worked at a company where majority of employees sat through their shifts and obesity and health issues were becoming a problem. The company started a contest where employees were to set exercise goals and log their workouts on an online website for three months. At the end of the contest, the individual that lost the most weight and/or inches would win an iPad. Employees loved this contest. Even if they did not win the prize, they still felt like winners because they had now made a workout regimen routine and were seeing results.

Gamification can help make HR professionals’ jobs a lot easier and also provide some great benefits for employees. Employees will feel happier going to work, can grow professionally, prove that they’re worthy of promotion, and can even help their health. I suggest that more companies take a look at which “games” would be useful to their company and test it out. The results may be interesting!

More information on gamification:

Forbes: Gamification: Three Ways To Use Gaming For Recruiting, Training, and Health & Wellness.

Gamification Summit Videos.

Gamification.org

Employers and Brands Use Gaming to Gauge Engagement.

How Benefitfocus is Winning with Their Culture

For those of you that know me by now, you probably can tell that I really enjoy researching and writing about company/workplace culture. For whatever reason, learning about a company’s culture is a passion of mine. I find it fascinating that each company has a unique “personality” which allows their employees to either embrace or reject it, thus determining the level of success or failure a company has. I strongly believe that company culture can make or break a business. It is quite a mix: it’s delicate and needs to be handled with care, and yet it holds a certain level of power that can control the fate of a company.

First, I would like to say a big heart-felt “thank you” to a company headquartered here in Charleston, SC. Benefitfocus took notice of my love for company culture and was so kind to send me their book, “Benefitfocus: Winning with Culture”. I just received it the other day so I haven’t finished reading it yet, but it’s been inspiring so far. Their culture is very impressive and could easily give some of Silicon Valley’s top-dogs a run for their money. Companies that are struggling to find that “good cultural balance” might want to pick up a copy and take some notes. It seems to be working very well for them.

Something that did stick out at me so far was actually located in the beginning of the book. The author discussed some of the challenges that Benefitfocus faced when trying to create and maintain the culture that they have today. The company admitted that it wasn’t easy: there were days when employees were stressed out and irritated because of heavy workloads and tight deadlines; there were external factors that tried to get the company to conform to what was “normal”; and they had to find the right balance to try to make all employees as happy  and engaged as they possibly could.

Although there are many challenges, the company has managed to maintain it the best they could. I could tell they were successful in their efforts because the book had an endless amount of employee accounts in which they talk about the specific reasons of why they love the company and what qualities make them excited to come to work every day. Normally, I’d be skeptical of that many employees promoting a company brand in such a positive light. However, while going through my job hunt, I’ve had plenty of friends that work there (or have worked there) that gushed about the company. I’d have to say, you know a company is good when the employees speak highly of it even in private conversations. Reading and hearing about their stories made me smile, laugh, and actually feel a bit jealous (Yeah, so, maybe I’m a brat). Simply stated: It made an impact.

It’s situations like this that show me how important culture is. This company is notorious for celebrating, especially celebrating the individual. Because these employees feel like they’re appreciated just for being themselves, they’ve become more invested in the company. They’re committed. They’re willing to work as hard as possible. All this dedication and hard work has aided the business to grow at rapid rates. Their name and their software are becoming more well-known throughout the world. At this point, I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon. Not only is this good for business, but this PR is actually helping the company attract quality talent, as well.

I don’t normally read detailed books about specific companies, but I can easily say that I’m enjoying this so far and look forward to reading all of it. Yes, it does interest me because it deals with culture but it’s more than just that. I find it refreshing to see a company so committed to the happiness of its employees. Benefitfocus knows and understands that its employees are its greatest asset, and the company treats them as such. It’s also nice to see the conviction in the employees’ statements when they say they honestly love working there. I hope more companies consider the benefits of having a solid company culture and work on creating and/or improving theirs.

Links:

Click here to read more about their culture and watch some of their videos.

Click here to request a copy of their book.

Social Media Uses for the HR Professional

I’ve always been interested in human resources but lately I’ve really been on a social media kick. Some of my Twitter and LinkedIn followers poke fun at me because it seems as if I’m posting all over the place. Although this is somewhat true, there is a reason why I’m becoming more present on social media sites. As I become increasingly involved in the discussions and chats, I’m learning more and more. There are so many wonderful people out there that are supportive, informative, and helpful. I appreciate everyone that I’ve connected with because they’ve exposed me to so many interesting things. This experience has really allowed me to see that there are more uses to social media than the typical stereotype.

A lot of people and companies feel that social media is a distraction and do not associate it with being useful in the workplace. Those people would be correct if they only used social media in the most general of forms. However, internal social media can also take a business to great heights if utilized properly. I recently researched and wrote a post about social media uses in the workplace that touched upon some of the effective ways to apply it.  One of the areas I mentioned was in regard to the ways that human resources can use it as a tool. Today, I’m going to dig deeper into this topic.

Human resources can use social media as:

  • As a performance management tool: Social media is a way to have information in one central location throughout the business-spectrum. It also can have customizable reporting to allow human resources and management to be able to gauge how the business is doing. Metric reporting and scorecards can compare employee output against organizational goals. This allows the business to determine how they are performing as a whole, departmentally, and can even score each individual employee. Human resources professionals can take the individual reports and use it for regular feedback and performance evaluations. This can also help HR and managers know what areas in training need to be improved and what tasks individual employees need additional mentoring on.
  • As a rewards and recognition tool: Social media allows collaboration throughout the organization. It also helps managers and HR to easily and openly see what employees are coming up with the creative/innovative solutions and which employees are truly putting in 110% contribution towards the organizational goals. With this information being accessible, HR professionals can reward employees accordingly, whether it is with monetary bonuses or even just recognition. It is becoming more apparent that employees appreciate the regular feedback that they can receive via social media. Additionally, employee engagement has increased due to the social media recognition programs that companies have implemented. Who would have known that simply saying, “thank you” would make that much of a difference?
  • As a training tool: The training aspect of human resources can really be brought to life via social media. HR can put up training tutorials, documents, SOPs, and videos for employees to easily reference. These training materials can be updated quickly as processes change. Employees can use it as a knowledge base and have easy access to these materials at all times. This can assist them in gaining the information and knowledge they need to complete duties accurately. It can also allow them to be more efficient because the information is instantly available, therefore, they do not have to rely on or wait for someone else to assist them. In addition to materials, social media can give employees the ability to connect with other individuals throughout the company and set up mentoring sessions.
  • As a promotion and/or internal mobility tool: Social media can keep a detailed, documented history. This means that all employees’ contributions, projects, and efforts throughout their employment are easily visible. When it comes time for an employee to ask for a raise or a promotion, this tool can allow human resources to review supporting documentation and decide whether or not the employee displayed characteristics worthy of a promotion or raise. This tool can aid recruiters and HR in seeing which employees show potential to do further things than just their current job and expected career path. This can benefit employees when they are attempting to prove that they’re capable of a lateral or upwards move in the company.

The more I research this topic, the more I get excited about it. Some of these uses can be more efficient than the combined practices and procedures HR have used in the past. If social media can be this valuable just in one department, think of how beneficial it can be for all departments. The possibilities that can arise for an organization are endless.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, please feel free to join the following chats on Twitter:

#SWChat held on Thursdays at 4PM EST

#HRtechChat held on Fridays at 2PM EST

#TChat held on Wednesdays at 7PM EST

Some interesting links:

The Social Revolution of Rewards and Recognition: http://www.thesocialworkplace.com/2011/09/23/the-social-revolution-of-rewards-and-recognition/

Social Media Performance Appraisal Process: http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/features/1073216/could-social-media-revolutionise-performance-appraisal-process

Social Media for Performance Management and Reporting: http://sustainablebusinessforum.com/joan-justice/58610/using-social-business-tools-increase-performance-management-and-reporting-sustain

Social Media Corporate Training: http://www.sayitsocial.com/