Your New Job Security Starts Here

A stable work future isn’t about finding a lifelong employer. It’s about being able to land the next professional opportunity—which means mastering the digital job hunt

Virginia Sole-Smith
Photograph: Andrew B. Myers

STEP IT UP WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
Companies want to know that you can use social media because it indicates you’ll have less of a learning curve on the job. So start yesterday. “A primary mistake that I see job seekers making is diving into online networking only after they’ve started to job-hunt and want something from people,” says Charles Purdy, a career expert at Monster.com.

Get a great profile picture
Even if you keep your privacy settings as restrictive as possible, chances are your profile picture pops up when someone searches for you. “Having a professional head shot is more important than ever, because that picture might be the first thing a prospective employer sees,” says Kirsten Dixson, coauthor of Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand. She advises hiring a photographer, getting your hair and makeup done and shooting two or three looks (all of which should work in any season) against a white background.

Make the most of LinkedIn
Bring your profile to 100 percent complete and use the keywords that employers might search for to increase the chances that you’ll pop up on the first page of their results. Focus on writing a great summary section. “You only get 2,000 characters, so you’re forced to tell your story in a way that’s really concise and relevant,” says Dixson. Also write recommendations for connections in your network—which should inspire them to do the same for you—and personalize the default e-mail invitation that LinkedIn sends to potential contacts.

Tweet with a purpose
Stick to tweeting relevant information from a conference or your opinion on a hot topic. And keep it short. “The new rule of thumb for tweet length is 120 characters,” Terwelp says. “This leaves room for your followers to retweet and add their own commentary.” Check your Twitter influence by entering your username at Klout.com, a service that analyzes your tweets and followers.

Create a Facebook brand page
Thirty billion links, photos and other pieces of content are shared on Facebook every month; you’d be crazy not to get in on that for your job search. But keep your personal and professional profiles separate. Set up your personal profile so it’s available to friends and family only. Then click on “Create a Page” (on Facebook’s footer menu) to set up a “brand” or “public figure” fan page for your professional identity. (Facebook lets you choose which friends or networks to share it with.) You can also use an application like BranchOut or BeKnown, which lets you network with people on Facebook without having to make them friends. For extra security, consider downloading Reputation.com’s free uProtect.it tool, which encrypts everything you post to Facebook so your data won’t get leaked the next time privacy settings change.

Cover your bases
“I advise clients to pick one or two social media platforms and work them,” says Dixson. “You want to use whichever are popular in your industry.” A service like KnowEm (knowem.com) can reserve your name on popular social networks before anyone else does (prices range from $99 to $599, depending on how many sites you want covered and how detailed you want your profiles to be on each one). Also, if you haven’t already, register yourname.com with a reputable registrar like Hover. “While you’re at it, register your kids’ names, too. They’ll thank you later!” says Dixson. “I do this as baby gifts for friends.” If you do want to participate actively on more than one site, register with HootSuite or Hellotxt. These services link your platforms together so you can update multiple platforms at once.

GET CURRENT
If you’ve been away from the workplace for a while, you may have missed key technological developments in your industry—and run the risk of outing yourself with small tech mistakes.

First Published October 11, 2011

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