Your search results are frequently your one and only chance to make the best first impression. Reputation.com’s Polly Wood, who counsels CEOs, politicians and movie stars on reputational matters, offers these tips for using the Internet the right way to get your dream job.
Network, baby! Social media are digital constellations: connecting all kinds of people in an easily explored galaxy. Search by company, people, position or industry and don’t be shy about asking connections you know to introduce you to people you want to know. It makes people feel great when they have the power to do someone a good turn. And, of course, you’ll give your heartfelt thanks and return the favour one day, right?
Your digital contact book is company currency. Getting a job has always been partly about who you know, even if it’s just getting in the door for an initial interview. But now, your social media connections are your digital Filofax and who you know speaks volumes. Your LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers help communicate credibility, imply potential leads for future business, illustrate your interests, and reinforce the professional image you’ve presented to an employer. Don’t be afraid to highlight the network you’ve so carefully cultivated and put links to your profiles on your cover letters and resumes.
Get creative. Remember the web product manager who mocked up his resume to look like an Amazon page? Or the journalist who used Vine to create a clever six-second ‘Hire me!’ video? Exactly: they stood out. You may not need to go to such extremes – especially if you’re in a conservative field like finance – but like an outfit’s perfect pop of colour, a dose of creative genius makes you unforgettable. What could you do with a smart series of tweets, an eye-catching online portfolio, even an interactive website?
Show off your expertise. Anyone with an Internet connection and the inclination can power up a blog – and it doesn’t take much to create one for free or make it look good using no-cost blogging software like WordPress. Write thoughtful commentary on the work topics you’re passionate about. Find industry forums and professional groups online and start participating (side bonus: networking!). Switching fields? No problem. Join relevant Meetup groups – which can show up in search results – and start getting to know your new field. Leaders love initiative and you’re demonstrating tons.
Audits aren’t just for HM Revenue and Customs. You should do one too – but instead of fantasising about your return, focus on what your search results reveal to the companies that are most definitely looking for you. Google your name (and your name plus your previous employers or schools) and images. Set up a free Google Alert on your name so you see new references as they get indexed in your results real time. Remember: when it comes to the Internet, ignorance is not bliss.
Clean it up, lock it down. Does your Facebook account show a party girl in Ibiza? Twitter feed include some back-and-forth with your out-of-control ex? Hey, no judgment. (But take it down or hide it – and lock down your privacy settings as added insurance.) Always remember that the safest way to ensure that content stays private is to keep it that way – for you alone. Privacy settings change too frequently to keep up.
Watch out for atypical pitfalls. Everyone always assumes Facebook is only place you can be exposed – far from it. One group of college friends I know used a popular cookbook website to make cookbooks for wedding gifts – all with inside-joke names like ‘Make Your Man Minestrone’ or ‘Do It In the Stacks Sandwiches.’ Turns out they forgot to make their drafts private. It showed up in one girl’s search results and she was asked about it in a job interview. Can we say awkward? Another easy one to overlook: Amazon wish lists. Does your future employer really need to know the silly gag gifts you requested for your hen party?
Curate yourself online. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and polished – and don’t forget to ask former colleagues and bosses to provide recommendations for you. Post your resume for free to Resume.com, which has a really nice, clean interface. Now that you’ve locked down your personal social media accounts (right?!), start a professionally oriented Facebook and Twitter. Postings can be as simple as a link to an interesting article with a short ‘Fascinating piece!’ to accompany it. See how smart and engaged you look?
Find e-mentors. Watch your favorite online spaces for those who are doing it the best – whose comments are just a little more clever, on-point and thoughtful than anyone else. Where else do they appear? Use these people as your e-mentors, those who show everyone how it can be done right. Our favourites? Sheryl Sandberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Arianna Huffington and Mindy Kaling. Become inspired!