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January 14, 2013

Five Ways to Use Social Media for Career Development

Do you know some employers now ask applicants for their Facebook pages, blogs and Twitter handles in their resumes? Like it or not, social media is starting to play a role in who companies hire and the trend is likely to continue in the future – regardless of which specific sites we’re using by then.

Because of this, it’s important each one of us take a good look at our social media footprints to ensure there’s nothing out there that will make us look unprofessional or otherwise raise a red flag for potential employers. Even if you think there’s nothing bad lurking around, it’s in your best interest to search occasionally because anyone can post pictures and comments that you may not want co-workers or employers to see.

But it’s not all bad. For people who are truly savvy about their social media presence, there are quite a few ways you can leverage it to obtain better jobs, build your brand and generally further your career – no matter what that might be.

Here are five of the best ways to use social media as a career development tool:

Network – Well, they are called social networks, aren’t they? Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great ways for you to connect with people in your chosen field and develop relationships to help you both now and down the road. The key, as it is in any networking situation, is to display confidence and do your best to forge a personal connection with any person you contact. This could be as simple as mentioning you went to the same high school or enjoyed their paper on faster-than-light particle analysis and hope to do similar research. However, if you truly want to develop a relationship, consider commenting on the person’s blog or posts they make and only attempt to strike up a real dialogue over time. This way, they may feel more invested in you because you’ve shown you are invested in them.

Brand yourself – We live in a world of sound bites and 30-second YouTube videos that get 100 million hits, so the best thing you can do to present a clear picture of yourself to potential employers and clients is to figure out what your personal brand is and how to convey that as clearly and simply as possible in all of your social media messages. Your personal brand should tell your audience what you do and whom you do it for, and it can (and should) be consistent across all of your social media platforms. That means, if you have an environmental law blog that talks about saving the trees, your Twitter avatar should be a picture of a redwood and all of your Facebook posts should focus on environmental matters.

Obviously, I’m not being completely literal, but you do want to be careful that you don’t stray from your message too much. People want to follow those who are consistent so they always know what to expect.

Narrowcast – While sites like Facebook allow you to “broadcast” your talents to a wide range of people because they are so huge and popular, they also offer the opportunity to narrowcast by letting you join or create smaller groups where you can focus on getting the attention of the people who may be important in furthering your career. Beyond this, though, the Web is full of social media sites created to focus entirely on very specific niche audiences. Writers have places like Goodreads, where they can speak directly to other writers and readers; Dog industry professionals have Dogster, a site for dog lovers. These are just two of what are hundreds – and possibly even thousands – of niche social media sites out there where industrious people can easily build up a reputation and start to make themselves into a household name.

Post on the world’s second largest search engine – No, it’s not Bing, and obviously Google is No. 1. I’m talking about YouTube. Videos are becoming more and more popular as a way to get your name out to the public because they have become easier to make. Case in point: a number of people are now creating video resumes to make themselves stand out from the crowd. Some people simply incorporate moving text and animation so their normal, everyday resume is a bit more exciting. Others try to tell a story with their resume text over stock footage. And still others directly address their audience as if they were hosting a talk show or interviewing for a specific position. This can help you to stand out not only because it’s so different from what everyone else is doing, but also because more people may be more willing to watch a video than read a resume or blog post. Oh, and one more thing, simply having a video raises your profile with the major search engines, meaning it will be easier for potential employers to find you.

Guest post – Of course, that doesn’t mean the traditional blog is dead – far from it. But there are so many people out there today who have blogs that it’s hard not to feel like a needle in a haystack or the tree that falls when no one is around – is anyone listening? Guest posts are a great way to get around that problem. The idea is that you agree to write a post for free (some places even charge you), on a site that gets more traffic than you do. In return, you get a little author’s bio at the bottom where you can link to your site or blog. In this way, you may get a few more visitors to your page, and possibly even a bit of business. Guest blog enough and you’ll have traffic coming in from numerous sources; not to mention the fact that you’ll have created a number of “linkbacks,” another tool the search engines use which will help you rank higher in search results.

Mike Walters is a writer for Engagement Health, LLC. When Mike isn’t busy reviewing wellness programs he spends his time reading and writing about the health-care industry.