If you're near your separation date, you're likely hearing a lot about using social media to get the attention of potential employers. Research shows that recruiters and hiring managers are using online tools to source candidates, evaluate potential workers, and keep tabs on employees already hired. Don't underestimate the importance and reach of the online tools available to you today through social media.
Social media is a powerful way to promote your personal brand and reputation. Your personal brand is how you are perceived by your target audiences. These audiences might be prospective employers, networking contacts, colleagues, and fellow service members. How these people perceive you, and whether they consider you relevant, valuable, and worth endorsing, directly impacts the opportunities you can choose from. Consider this: if you want to pursue a job at Company X and you know three people who have positions of influence at Company X, you are in a great position to pursue the job, right? Not necessarily. If those three people believe you to be lazy or argumentative or non-collaborative, and Company X only hires workers who are driven, resilient, and team-oriented, these contacts of yours will not endorse, refer, or recommend you for consideration. Their perception of you is inconsistent with what the company looks for, putting you at the disadvantage -- even if their perception of you is not accurate.
Using social media to articulate your values, experience, and skills helps manage the way others see you. Consider that most of your competition -- civilian and veteran -- are using the tools found online, and by not participating in social media in a real and intentional way, you are at a competitive disadvantage.
As you initiate or build up your personal brand online, consider these keys to success:
- Have a strategy. As you enhance your online profiles and visibility, have a game plan for what you want to accomplish, who you want to attract and connect with, what you want them to know about you, and the specific action you want others to take. A strategy is the first step in being intentional and smart about how you present yourself online.
- Remember that everything is public. Whatever you type into a smart phone, tablet or computer is accessible and available to the public. Do not consider your information, jokes, comments, and photos safe if you text, instant message, post, or share them. Remember that employers are screening off of social media, and what they see from you can make or break their interest in interviewing and hiring you.
- Consider your audience. Be specific about the employers, hiring managers and networking contacts that you seek to build credibility with online. You can't promote and market yourself to everyone. It's not feasible or effective. Research the companies and industries you want to influence, and ensure your online profiles are attractive and relevant to them.
- Consider the platform. All social media platforms are unique. Some, like Facebook, are social and casual. Others, such as LinkedIn, are professional in tone and content. Still others like Pinterest and Instagram, are visual. And Twitter is about short bursts of content that drive engagement and action. Posting a family vacation photo to LinkedIn isn't appropriate, just as pitching a business idea on Facebook rarely works.
- Identify keywords. Look at the job descriptions and requisitions posted by your target employers. Do you see patterns in the terminology or language they use? Are there keywords or key phrases they repeat often? Make sure those keywords appear in your online profiles.
- Measure and monitor results and impact. Over time, your social media efforts should provide results and progress towards landing your ideal job. Monitor the number and quality of your connections, recommendations, and endorsements online (especially those consistent with your reputation goals). Social media only works for you if you have goals and monitor your efforts towards meeting those goals.
The decision to use social media to promote yourself to employers is a personal one. After deciding to build your online profiles, have a system, targets and metrics to gauge success and keep your efforts focused and impactful.