Secrets to Success, Job Seekers Edition: Tools You Can Use

Apr 18, 2009 by

We all know the job landscape is changing. Gone are the days when you could snail mail a resume on nice paper and get noticed. These days, networking and maximizing the various tools at our disposal is absolutely necessary to get noticed. In this post I’m going to go through some of the traditional and not-so-traditional tools that helped me get noticed and get a job.

The Traditional

  • Networking – There have probably been a million blog posts written about networking, but I need to add just a little bit more digital ink to the topic. Networking is something that you should be doing every day. Now I know that most people think of attending happy hours or receptions as networking and they are part of the whole package. I recommend trying to attend at least one networking event a month just to keep in practice. Real networking though is what you do every day with your friends and colleagues; responding to emails and voice mails in a timely manner and getting people what they need when they ask for it. If you get people what they ask for, they will respond in a like manner when you put out an ask for help.
  • Business cards – Personally, I love business cards – the paper stock, the color, the designs. When I was an intern I had to collect them as part of a project and since then I’ve been in love. And they serve as a real sort of currency, at least here in DC. When someone hands you their card, handing one back is expected. If you are currently employed it’s perfectly
    Flickr photo by Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library

    Flickr photo by Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library

    acceptable to give someone the card from your work place, but handing someone your personal card makes an even bigger impression. It’s really easy to order some for free or at a very low cost at Vistaprint. I customized mine with my key personal information on the front and my social networking profiles on the back (UPDATE: here is a picture of the front of my business card and the back of it. My tip: always put something on the back or else space is wasted.).

Not-So-Traditional

  • LinkedIn – By now, you’ve hopefully heard about LinkedIn and signed up for a profile. If you haven’t, go there right now and get started. Seriously. Go now. LinkedIn is the site for professional networking – no pictures of your latest party or status updates about your drunken friends here. The best way to use LinkedIn is to fill in all areas of your profile with accurate information, including descriptions of your last few jobs, your educational background, etc. and then start connecting to your coworkers, former coworkers, people who work in partner organizations, your personal friends, people you meet at networking events and anyone else you can think of. As with all social networking, you will get out what you put in to LinkedIn. As you search for jobs and find one you are willing to put the time into applying for, do a quick search and see if any of your connections or their connections work for the organization. Chances are good that someone to whom you are connected works or worked for that organization and before you know it, you have a foot in the door.
  • VisualCV – This is a tool that I discovered within the last couple of months and I’m a big fan. Unlike LinkedIn, there isn’t a built in social networking component (i.e. you don’t connect to ‘friends’) and VisualCV allows room to upload multimedia items like presentations and videos. It also allows you to link to any work you have available on the Internet already. Plus, you can download it into a PDF file and print it off in living color. Nice!
  • Blogging – Obviously, if you’re reading this, you know that I blog. Blogging is one of the best tools I’ve found for distinguishing myself among a field of similarly ambitious job seekers. It allows me to express my opinions, offer some thought leadership in my field and provide a renewable supply of writing samples for potential employers. Plus, it’s me uncensored; most writing that I’ve done for work gets filtered through at least a few people and may be changed significantly before it is published. With blogging, there is no similar restriction. Of course, that also puts a further onus on the blogger to make sure her posts are proofed and mistake-free. But you know how I feel about that.
  • Twitter – I’m addicted to Twitter, I admit it. It’s easy to use, it’s fun, it creates real conversations and I’ve discovered so many amazingly useful articles, posts and tools by using it. It’s also a great way to stay up to date on what is going on within your field. You can search for other like-minded twits (those that Tweet) and organizations on Twitter and follow their updates. You can also share your blog posts or interesting resources you come upon and further establish your reputation as a thought leader.

So what’s the conclusion to all of this? Well, to be honest, I didn’t find my current job through traditional networking. However, I did get noticed for my blogging and twittering during the search. In fact, during an interview, I was specifically asked about my blog and my opinions on nonprofits utilizing social networking tools. Now they may have been planning on asking me that question regardless, but I know that I was able to provide a thoughtful, articulate answer because of my own experience with these media tools. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert, but you have questions or want more tips on using these tools, I’m happy to chat. Just shoot me an email or tweet me. And stay tuned for the last post in this series about being prepared for that all important interview.

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