Uninspired by grad schemes? Frazzled by application forms? You’re not alone in being drawn to non-corporate careers, looking beyond the City and the familiar brands. But how do you break in without knowing anyone in the field – and how do you find out what opportunities are out there in the first place? Whether you’ve set your sights on journalism, charities, or joining a small creative agency where your work will make a difference, these are two often-voiced concerns. Not without reason: many sectors may appear to lack clear entry routes, with few publicly advertised placements. (Perhaps ironically, journalism and charities are among the worst offenders). This is where a social media strategy can help. And even if you’re sure finance or consulting is the perfect match, learning to network and market yourself online will stand you in good stead – no matter what career stage you’re at.
Here are 5 ways you can further your job search using social media:
Be the first to hear about job opportunities
Following prospective employers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is a useful first step – this way, you are more likely to get to hear whenever vacancies arise, whether you’re after a full-time job or a week-long taster placement. Also look out for relevant professionals with a public profile – reporters, think tank analysts or campaigners will almost certainly have a Twitter presence, and often share public Facebook posts you can subscribe to. You will not only learn about their day-to-day work. They’re also likely to share content by outlets and institutions with a similar profile, which you may otherwise not hear about – sometimes, even job adverts. Have a look around for specialist social networks, too – Journalisted.com and Academia.edu are two examples.
Build an online presence
The pressure to “build a personal brand” and “market yourself” on the internet can seem both unrelenting and oppressive – and it is easy to write off the concept as nothing more than a meaningless catchphrase. But if you’re interested in the creative industries, showing off samples of your work – or even an engaging Twitter feed – is often the easiest way to stand out. Are you keen on working with visual media? Give the world a chance to see your best photos using Flickr. Love or hate a new marketing campaign? Make your case on your WordPress blog, or use a similar platform. Twitter can be especially good for engaging with potential employers and professionals directly – leave a thoughtful comment on new work they’ve shared, ask a question, retweet their content. You may be able to ask about job opportunities directly – but prepare to be Googled, and make sure your social media profiles show you in a favourable light. Check out our other blog post on how to do this.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice…
Online networking can be a powerful tool – especially if you can take it out of the web and into the real world! Identify professionals who live nearby and work in your preferred field – then use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to look for common connections. Once you’ve done that, you can ask for an introduction – be sure to highlight any relevant experience and interests, and there is a good chance the person will agree to an informational interview. Rather than a formal job interview, this is an opportunity to ask them questions about their current role, and how they got there – hopefully over a cup of good coffee. (Here is a list of questions you might want to ask.) You may be able to gain further contacts, or an offer to shadow them at work – be sure to be prepared, and send a thank-you email after!
Check out new up-and-coming platforms as well, such as the recent “Tinder for jobs” called Shapr, where you match with others over common career interests.
…but avoid thinking it’s purely a numbers game
As always, using common connections (think tutors, former employers, your former Tab editor who’s moved on to bigger things, etc.) is by far the best strategy to secure informational interviews. It needn’t matter that you’ve never worked in the field before – your college network and the university careers’ service can be more helpful than you assume. Few professionals will respond positively to unsolicited emails and CVs – and tweeting the same message at a dozen different people isn’t likely to be any more successful. When you do approach a contact, make sure to target your message to them specifically – show understanding of their work and focus on what they (and no one else) can help you with. We all want to feel special, so this targeting is crucial. Twitter, and possibly commenting on public posts on Facebook, can be a great way of letting them know you care.
If you do end up “cold emailing” without any previous interaction, targeting is even more important. Check out this post on how to write successful cold emails, which can easily be adapted to e.g. a LinkedIn message.
Speak to the HR manager directly
Even if you’re looking for entry-level jobs, getting in touch with the HR manager directly can sometimes be the best way of grabbing their interest – especially if you’re interested in smaller organisations. Track them down on LinkedIn (or use sites such as Hunter or VoilaNorbert), then provide a valid reason for contacting them. This article provides some good advice. Don’t forget to check if they’re on Twitter, or have any blogs with published content – if so, why not make a good impression by engaging with their work first?