Little RedIf you’re considering pursuing a new career — or even just a new job — having a certain level of acuity with social media is imperative. According to research by Jobvite, 93 percent of recruiters and companies now use social media for hiring. Another survey by CareerBuilder found that 35 percent of employers are less likely to consider candidates they can’t find online. If you don’t have a social media presence, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Besides using social media to attract potential employers and clients, you can also use it to research companies, careers and industries; improve your skills and knowledge; and build a network of professional contacts.

Social media is an invaluable tool for advancing your career. Here are five steps for leveraging social media during a career change.

  1. Create an impressive profile. First, do some housekeeping to make sure your existing social profiles are free of information that could damage your professional image. According to CareerBuilder, half of all employers who research candidates on social media have dug up content that convinced them to pass over a candidate. The most common turn-offs for employers are inappropriate photos or information, references to drug or alcohol abuse, negative comments about a former company or fellow employee, and poor communication skills. Either tighten restrictions on who can access your profiles, or clean up your digital living quarters.To improve your professional presence on social media, start with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is by far the most commonly used site by companies looking to fill jobs through social media. Employers are typically looking for information about candidates’ professional experience, hard skills, and tenure in previous positions, as well as industry-related posts, mutual connections, cultural fit, examples of work, and contact information. Make sure your profile clearly showcases this information.
  1. Research your industry. Search LinkedIn for groups that are relevant to your industry or job role, and join the ones that look especially active and useful. Take time to view the profiles of others in the group, to find out what their roles are, who they are employed by and what their work experience has been. Stay on top of discussions happening within the group — they often contain valuable insights into and commentary on news and trends in the field. You can also follow professionals you admire. LinkedIn’s Pulse tool is a great way to discover “Influencers” — thought leaders in your field of interest who frequently post content on LinkedIn.
  1. Poppies field at sunsetResearch potential employers. Use social media to get to know the companies you might want to work for. Follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter, “like” them on Facebook — and then pay attention to their activity on these platforms. Check out the photos they’re posting to Facebook, the hashtags they’re using on Twitter, the discussions they’re starting on LinkedIn. Not only can you learn about the company itself — the events it’s hosting, products it’s launching, and issues affecting it — you should also be able get a sense of the company culture (its personality, in other words). Can you see yourself fitting in there?
  1. Showcase your skills and knowledge. Now that you’re making useful connections and learning about your field of interest, it’s time to show how you can contribute to it. Here are a few ways to do that:
  • Participate in discussions happening within your LinkedIn Groups. Often, practitioners will use these groups to ask questions about work-related challenges they’re facing. If you can offer helpful advice, do so!
  • Share useful and thought-provoking content that is related to the work you do (or want to be doing). For example, if you come across a great article that you know would be of interest to practitioners in your field, post a link to the article on Facebook or Twitter, or start a discussion about it on LinkedIn.
  • If the organizations (or clients) you want to work for are starting conversations on social media, chime in. This is a great way to get your name in front of the people who may want to hire you.
  • If appropriate, share photos on Instagram, which can be synced to your Twitter and Facebook profiles. Photos are more memorable than text, and can help you stick out in the minds of people you’re connected to.
  1. Search for job openings. If you’re connected to organizations on social media, you’ll be notified of their job openings or other needs they have that you can fill. And if you score an interview, don’t be shy about using social media to research the person who will be interviewing you. This can provide you with insights that you might otherwise have missed.

You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn about your field of interest and potential employers through social media. Even dedicating 20 minutes a day to it can reap huge dividends in your career. And if you’re feeling unsure about how to communicate on these platforms, it’s alright to hang back for a while. Observe how others interact on social media, and keep learning. You’ll master the nuances of communicating through this technology sooner than you think.

How have you used social media to advance in your career? Share your experience with us!

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