Recently, I changed career paths. When people ask how the opportunity came about, my short answer is that I landed the new job using social media (specifically Twitter). But, I also explain that is not as simple as stating that Twitter actually “got” me the job. It played a role in the process, which was important, but not the whole story. My hope is that by sharing some of the techniques I used to initiate my career change, you can get some ideas for your own professional pursuits.
For a little over a year, I have been actively pursuing career opportunities in the Twin Cities. I had a great job in Illinois, with a great company. My wife and I had just decided we wanted to make a change, be closer to family, and try a new location.
Getting Out There, and Setting Deadlines:
Once we agreed on the plan, the first thing I did was commit to physically coming to Minnesota once per quarter. By setting hard dates, it was up to me to make sure I had enough meetings set up to make the trips worth while. Quarterly visits were often enough for me to get moving on our plan without disrupting my current situation, or going broke on airfare. To prepare for the visits, I used a number of tactics to make my trips worth while.
I used LinkedIn’s Advanced Job Search function to hone in on specific job keywords in the location where I was looking. When I found one that footed the bill, in addition to applying for the job (with the always important cover letter), I reviewed the company’s LinkedIn profile, the person that posted the position, and any other employees in a related department. I sent these people messages explaining my situation, and inviting them to have a cup of coffee at one of my upcoming quarterly visits.
In my field, the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) is a great source of information, contacts, and events. They have a very nice jobs board, which I frequently surveyed for opportunities. I also became a member, so I could get familiar with the other members and companies. I created a spreadsheet of the companies and members, and researched what they were all about, including twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles, personal blogs, and professional histories. When I found someone interesting, I subscribed to their twitter feeds and blogs, started interacting with them, and eventually reached out to invite them for a coffee at one of my visits (starting to see a pattern?)
Twitter is a nice way to initially get to know someone. The types of people I enjoy following are those who share a nice combination of business and personal information. These are the people I actively searched for. Plus, by paying attention to who they followed and interacted with, I was able to find other interesting people in the industry who I could start following and interacting with as well. Soon, my network of Minnesota interactive marketing professionals started to grow, and I was meeting a lot of cool and smart people who I could invite for meetings. There was never a moment when there wasn’t something else to do to get me closer to my goal, and with each new company or contact discovery, a new relationship soon followed.
The nice thing about conducting my search while I still had a job was that I could be patient. I was ready to give this initiative as long as it took to find the right gig, and was lucky enough to not have a financial or time deadline against which I was fighting. I approached all my meetings as a chance to get to know people in the industry from the Twin Cities, and to get a feel for what is going on in the Minnesota scene. I didn’t ask for jobs directly, or drill anyone for contacts. I listened to stories on how they made it, and in some cases asked for their thoughts and suggestions on my approach. In some cases, my new friend would say “you know you really should talk to X”. Drip after deliberate drip...my Minnesota network continued to expand. As I discovered more people, I would get in touch with them and set up a coffee at my next visit, and repeat!
Getting the Job:
One of these new contacts was also on the same path I was, and was making a change to a different career. Not only did we have a similar industry in common, we were trying to accomplish the same goal. Eventually, he landed a gig and was working when he received a call from his recruiter about an opportunity. He declined the offer to apply, but said that he “had the guy” for the job. I received a text message telling me to call his recruiter. I was “his guy,” and the rest is history.
Lessons Learned: It’s the Network
Personally, I think the power of these tools lies in the personal network you can build. Since I started this process, I have been lucky enough to build relationships with people I now call friends. These are people with whom I want to hang out, and now that I am here, I get to interact with them in real life.
What I learned in this process is if you want to get into a career using social media tactics, you can’t ignore the hard work of getting out there and building a solid network of like-minded people. If you know where you want to go, and what you want to do, find others that are already doing it and get to know them. Don’t concentrate too much on getting the job, but building meaningful relationships with the right people. If you repeat this process enough, and make yourself known, your chances of putting yourself into a position of getting lucky increases exponentially. Plus, you get to meet a lot of very cool and smart people in the process.
That’s how I did it. How about you? What social media tactics have you used to land a job? What frustrations have you run into? I’d like to hear your story.