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How social media can help you find jobs that aren't advertised

Most successful people will tell you that they applied for an advertised job opportunity no more than once in their lives. Once they got started, they were able to rely on their connections, reputation and demonstrated competence to accelerate their careers. They got jobs that were never advertised because they were obviously the best candidates.

By some estimates, 70% of jobs are never published and more than 80% are filled from candidates recommended by trusted colleagues. That makes sense; why would a hiring manager want to sort through hundreds of resumes when colleagues and industry peers can provide the affirmation that's important to choosing the right people?

Social media can help you find those hidden opportunities. It provides a platform both for showcasing your own expertise and for connecting with others who can help you along.

Where to start job hunting via social media

Start with LinkedIn. A profile on the popular professional network is table stakes for anyone in the job market. Make the most of all the tools available. The top section should briefly summarize your expertise based on the keywords you want prospective employers to use to find you. The "About" section is where you can write at length about your skills and aspirations.

The "Experience" section is where you should document your job history, paying particular attention to accomplishments over responsibilities. Avoid gaps in the timeline. If you were laid off and out of work for a few months, list yourself as a contractor during that time. Grammar and spelling matter. If they aren't your fortes, ask a friend to brush up your prose.

One of the most valuable elements of the LinkedIn profile is the "Recommendations" section where people you know and have worked with can describe how competent and interesting you are. Don't be afraid to ask colleagues, past bosses and teachers to write you a recommendation and return the favor. Peer validation is the most valuable career currency you can have.

It's a good idea to also post your resume on your own website. You have a bit more latitude there than on LinkedIn, so embellish your presence with an attractive template, an extended "About" page, samples of your work and professional-looking photos. Blogger and Wordpress are two popular platforms with free tiers, and there are dozens of other alternatives that cost just a few dollars a month. Having a website or blog under your own name with the right keywords will help your search visibility enormously.

How to use social media when seeking employment

The real magic of social media, though, comes from creating content and building relationships. When it comes to content, take a pay-it-forward approach by offering up your expertise to answer questions in LinkedIn groups, answering questions on Quora and participating in specialty community sites like Spiceworks. Be sure your profile on those sites links back to your website and LinkedIn profile.

If you're a software developer, the GitHub Support Community is a good place to show off your coding skills. Your contributions will attract the attention of others in your field and grow your online footprint. Just one post a day adds up quickly.

If long-form essays are more your style, post them to LinkedIn's publishing platform to get a shot at exposure to the network's more than 750 million users or sign up for a free account at the community blogging site Medium, which has become a favorite for software developers and data scientists. Or add a blog to your online resume site and post there as well.

Social media magic also accrues from making connections. Follow people you respect on Twitter and LinkedIn and share their posts with your circle. Whenever possible, add a comment to the shared link to improve the chances your share will be seen by the author. Reach out selectively to people who can help you to make connections or just introduce yourself, being aware of the need not to come across as intrusive.

One tactic that can get you noticed right away is to offer to interview influential people in your field for a feature on your blog, LinkedIn platform or podcast. You would be surprised how many people are flattered by such a request and willing to give up a little of their time. This technique pays off in two ways: You're starting a relationship with the expert that can pay career dividends for you later and influential people often promote the content through their own social channels, elevating your visibility.

Additional considerations

Be aware of the need to comport yourself professionally in all your social channels. Check for any public-facing information from your past that may cause embarrassment. Delete those old photos from your college partying days. Avoid posting about politics or divisive social issues and keep your tone professional and positive. Remember that social media works both ways: It can show the world your best side but also have unintended consequences if not used carefully.

This was last updated in April 2021

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