Can social media help a career transition? (Part 1 of 2)
Updated: Feb 16
As if professional transition wasn’t stressful enough, it seems cruel to suggest that you also have to keep on top of the fluid whims of social media in order to transition your career successfully. The first step is to decide if or how you want to incorporate social media beyond LinkedIn into your networking and job search strategy. After you get the hang of LinkedIn, explore at least one additional social medium as part of your regular approach. Most employers (and potential clients) will google your name. If you want to control what they see, some understanding of social media is in order.
The best reason to master another social media site is to open up your world to other experiences and people. If you’re approaching or beyond age fifty, savviness with social media will also help you combat ageism in the job market by demonstrating that you are willing to keep on top of new technologies and are open to alternative ideas.
There is a case to be made that social media is giving us all ADHD, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to be thoughtful and deep and to use it to actually meet people you would want to meet and collaborate with in the flesh. First I will ask you take the following quiz.
Social Media Quiz:
Ask yourself these questions to decide which social media platform to explore next:
1. Am I a published writer?
2. Do I enjoy taking photographs?
3. Do I often have random musings that are insightful or at least occasionally deep?
4. Do people often think the things I say are funny?
5. Do people often think the things I say are deep and/or insightful?
6. Do I have more than two hundred friends on Facebook?
7. Am I a social creature?
8. Do I enjoy making visual art, and do I do it often?
9. Do I enjoy crafting, and do I do it often?
10. Do I like to write?
11. Am I a talented writer who can write well with little editing?
12. Do I have skills building websites, even small, uncomplicated ones with tools like Wix or Squarespace?
13. Do I often text friends for reasons beyond making plans, like exchanging witty observations or, my favorite with my girlfriends, “smack talk”?
14. Do I consider myself relatively thick-skinned?
15. Am I good at facilitating conversations with people over Facebook? Do my Facebook threads often run long with several comments?
16. Do I tend to post at least once a week on Facebook?
17. Do I tend to tweet at least once a week?
18. Do I tend to post a photo on Instagram at least once a week?
19. Are jobs I’m seeking asking for social media skills?
20. Does my job interest area intersect strongly with technology beyond basic use of computers?
21. Does my job interest area intersect strongly with journalism?
Also, ask yourself:
Are skills with this medium required or a competitive advantage for jobs I am seeking?
What social media sites do I find myself spending the most time using?
Will I enjoy learning other social media technologies?
Do I need to combat possible ageism by showing that I am current on this technology?
Do I have a family member or friend who enjoys this technology and can help me?
How Twitter can help in a career transition
If you answered yes to questions 3, 4, 5, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, or 21 you should consider using Twitter. Arguably the least popular of the social media platforms, Twitter is sometimes called microblogging because you can only post brief blurbs of no more than 280 characters. Twitter operates in “real time,” allowing you to use hashtags to follow live events or “follow” thought leaders, recruiters, publications, and organizations in the field you’re exploring without a time delay. Most large conferences and career fairs have hashtags that invite further engagement for the duration of the event, giving you exposure and yet another opportunity to connect with people.
Start by creating a thoughtful, strategic Twitter profile using hashtags within your description of yourself that relate to your field and key interests. Use a photo of yourself that is flattering but not too stodgy or an icon that expresses your values or industry. If you’re a painter, use a photo of one of your favorite works. Tweet (post) information related to your accomplishments and ideas that relate to you career interests and, if you have a CV or business website, include a link.
You can direct-message people to start conversations or compliment them on insightful and funny tweets. Retweet the posts you really admire and remember to use hashtags, particularly ones relevant to your industry with an eye toward what is trending. You can also look for jobs by following job boards or searching for hashtags like #techjobs or #pdxjobs.
Tweeting, just like posting in any other way on the web, will help you build your overall web presence. Having an active Twitter account will boost your rating when someone googles your name. But if Twitter is not for you, don’t overthink it. There are several other social media options.
How Facebook can help in a career transition
If you answered yes to 6, 7, 15, or 16, you might want to consider making Facebook a stronger component in your career networking strategy. At first, the recommendation was to use LinkedIn for job searches and to keep Facebook for fun, social relationships, but Facebook has evolved from a purely social tool to a juggernaut that is impossible to ignore. It has its drawbacks, make no mistake, but it offers an unparalleled ability to connect with the highest number of people in a myriad of ways, both professional and purely social. As of the first quarter of 2020, more than 2.5 billion users logged in at least monthly to Facebook, and in February 2017, Facebook announced that it would start allowing employers to post job announcements to their Facebook pages. If approached with professionalism and a sharp eye on privacy settings, Facebook can be a powerful asset in your career networking strategy.
I strongly encourage you to consider it as a job search tool if at least one of the following is true:
You’ve already built up a strong network of friends and family members. With this existing network, you can publicize your job search and your talents and ask for help in networking and getting introduced.
The employers that you are targeting have a Facebook page. You can “like” the employer, engage with them, and research the company from this page by following links to company websites and blogs. In addition, company Facebook pages may contain information about benefits, culture, and hiring practices and, as mentioned before, post jobs and accept applications.
You are seeking positions that desire expertise in social media and you have not used it before.
A Facebook presence can also demonstrate your human side and project qualities to prospective employers and contacts outside of your professional resume. You don’t even have to become a regular user to create a well-written profile that emphasizes your credentials, education, and experience. Perhaps you can link to a presentation you made, articles you’ve written, awards you have received, or relevant photos or videos. Facebook Live is an increasingly popular way to express yourself in “real time” by making video chats to further connect with others.
While millennials grew up learning about the benefits and pitfalls of Facebook and the internet, studies indicate that Gen Xers and baby boomers are more careless with their online privacy settings. Check out Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies for a review of the best privacy practices for the job hunter.
If you decide to go further with Facebook, look for Facebook friends who might work at one of your target companies or engage with a community, like UX or cannabis entrepreneurs, that you want to explore.
Facebook groups can also be helpful. Several people have used Facebook to start high-engagement private Facebook groups like Herbs for Mental Health, and many business groups like the eWomen Network have private Facebook groups that enjoy rigorous engagement. In open and closed groups, members can exchange articles, discuss relevant topics, post events and blog posts, introduce members to one another, share job listings, and take informal polls, among other activities.
There are also groups specific to certain job seekers; the Social Media and Marketing Jobs Facebook group has 54,000 members! Check out groups in the area of Business and Organizations; join groups carefully but don’t dismiss them if they’re small. They may have higher engagement or a deeper focus than large groups. Look for signs of activity; frequent activity, more than size, is what’s important.
You can also look for job postings on Facebook using CareerBuilder, Simply Hired, and other job applications, and you can purchase advertising to showcase your Facebook expertise.
You may have heard some bad press about Facebook, and you can find career success without it, but if you set aside your prejudices, you may find that this site can offer you a chance to pursue deeper level of engagement, especially for individuals with relatively arcane interests, like aquaponic cannabis growers, unlikely to be found on LinkedIn.
What to Post on Facebook
If Facebook has been part of your life since you were in college, go back and rethink your profile with the eyes of a potential employer. If you are new to Facebook, you may also wonder how much personal information to post. The best thing about the Facebook culture is that it focuses on playfulness and pictures while discouraging the stiff and boring. Consider that potential employers may be checking out your social as well as professional profiles. The following suggestions can guide you:
If you’re planning a caregiving or corporate career, avoid references to drinking or sex. In short, know your field and its sensitivities. Imagine yourself as a potential employer, client, or contact in your field of interest and ask yourself, “How would I respond to the information on my Facebook page?” If that you would not judge the real you harshly for your Facebook content, leave it be. It’s a judgment call only you can make.
Reflect carefully on how much political material to print. Election years can create a lot of emotions and hot rhetoric that go viral. This has never been truer. If you’re applying to Planned Parenthood, they won’t mind your pro-choice stance, but any employer may be turned off by angry, militant, or childish Facebook exchanges.
Check your privacy settings on Facebook and other sites to ensure that only selected readers may view your personal information or selected portions of your Facebook page.
Feel comfortable posting information and pictures about your hobbies, your travels, your family, and your volunteer work.
Include any information that may be pleasing and interesting to a potential employer. These details can help present a fuller and more positive picture of your personality, talents, attitudes, and values, not usually evident in a resume.
How Instagram can help in a career transition
If you answered yes to 2, 8, or 9, give Instagram a shot. Many people put off by the political rancor or folksy oversharing that can ruin time spent on Facebook find Instagram a refreshing change of pace. Since it’s used widely by photographers and other visual artists, people tend to be more mindful about the quality of the photos they post—I rarely see a photo that isn’t worth viewing, and many creative people pursue interesting pastimes like the 100 Day Project in which they challenge themselves to create a work of art every day (including the hashtag #100dayproject). Artist Cassandra Ott has built a following on Instagram with two 100 Day Project endeavors that she credits with generating some of her most inspired work.
If you’re playing with starting a business, there are certain types of businesses that almost have to be on Instagram—food-related business, cosmetic companies, artists, artisan makers, and outdoor-related businesses benefit from the visual nature of Instagram, and wellness practitioners like therapists, acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, and coaches appreciate its tendency to foster community for those who like to share philosophical and holistic insights. (Private Facebook groups are also known for creating this type of communal sharing.)
And, to be clear, there are occasionally jobs posted on Instagram, often by companies looking for fresh, outside-the-box thinkers, like those in the cannabis industry or UX graphic design.
In Part 2 of this blog post (which should drop early in the week of July 12), we will continue to consider deeper, more time-intensive ways to let social media help you advance your career. These tactics will include blogging and creating a virtual CV. If you answered “yes” to 12 on the social media quiz at the beginning of this post, I will recommend you create a website resume or online portfolio while if you answered “yes” to 1, 10, 11, 12 or 19, I will recommend you consider starting a blog (or stepping up your blogging efforts)
Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor, small business coach, and author based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She coaches fledgeling entrepreneurs through the startup phase and seasoned business owners through periods of burnout and indecision. She also consults individuals seeking support for career indecision, next steps, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients both remotely and in person (with COVID-safe precautions). You can find her books The DIY Website Workbook and Jump Start: How to redirect a career that has stalled, lost direction or reached a crossroads on Amazon.