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How the Last 5 Years Have Changed the Job Hunt

When aliens are studying our society 50 years from now, I predict they’ll mark the rise of social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as one of the important historical events of the last decade. These venues have had a profound effect on how people find and connect with each other, how they present themselves to the world and who listens. And they’ve rewritten all the rules for job hunting and recruiting.

What’s so different about job hunting in the social age?

1.       Everyone is findable: LinkedIn was launched in May 2003 and now has 44 million users in the US. Hiring companies can search for talent by keyword, zip code, years of experience, professional groups they’re part of, school they graduated from, etc.

2.       Everything is clickable: Gone are the days of a static resume. Today you can create an online profile that’s regularly updated and has a thick root system of links to other social sites, your work, your blog, books you enjoy, tweets, travel plans, etc. You can give context and personality to your career accomplishments and new ways for people to relate to you.

What This Means to You, as a Job Seeker

1.       You’re a real, living thing and not a resume. We’re all publishers of our own web pages now. We have a live window to the world that can be updated at any time. Your personal brand is more fluid than a resume. As a result, people expect to be able to interact with something that is more human and engaging. We want a story and context, not just basic facts.

2.       You can find people too. Want a job in product development at Google? You can find people who hold these roles in your LI network, send them an email or request an introduction. You can join one of LI’s 870,000 professional groups, look at their job boards or network with other members.

How to Make the Most of It

If you haven’t already done so, tuck your paper resume away with your business cards, Sony Walkman and PDA. It’s an ancient relic. Here are some new habits to ensure you don’t look hopelessly out of touch:

1.       Relatable Profile: Don’t be afraid to instill some personality into your online profile or personal web site. This makes it memorable and gives people a way to relate to you. Go for a tone that’s clever, concise and entertaining versus lifeless and vague corporate speak.

Here’s a profile that made me giggle, but not everyone will want to present themselves this way. This one’s also very approachable, yet more conservative. See how they use real language and refer to themselves in the first person rather than third? And, do I really need to say this? Avoid anything self-depreciating or desperate sounding, e.g. Unemployed for 8 months and MUST FIND JOB NOW.

2.       Credible Voice: Be artful about what you disclose. This isn’t just about who you invite but your privacy settings as well. We all use different voices for different venues, but you don’t necessarily want prospective employers listening as you proclaim on FB, “I just drank all the alcohol in Bermuda.” Whenever I’m referred to someone, I cross-reference them on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and my client companies do too.

3.       Clickable Resume: Like your online bio, think of your resume and personal brand as a living, evolving story. Since people send files electronically, everything is clickable. For example, you can create a hyperlink on your resume that leads to live examples of your work, decks you’ve written, clips from speaking engagements, recommendations, etc. Just like hyperlinks in a newspaper article, you can elect to drop down to greater level of detail or look across at related stories. This means that you can streamline your resume to make readable and visually appealing, then allow readers to click thru to supporting content.

To take this concept a step further, I’ve seen more and more resumes fashioned after web pages: Horizontal page format with side bars or grid organization. These stand out easily in a pile and allow readers to scan sections of information rather than read top to bottom. Resist the urge to fill every inch of paper though, lest you give people a migraine. It’s still important to prioritize content.

4.       Approachability: Find and be found. Consider why you’re on social networking sites to begin with and expect to connect with BOTH friends and strangers. So when a prospective employer, salesperson or recruiter comes calling, be cordial. Spreading good networking karma will come back around when you email an employee at the company you really want to work for.

If you want people to reach you (say you’re in an active job search), be sure to post your contact info prominently in your profile. Add a friendly profile picture and when people smile at you, smile back.

Author’s Note: I plan to incorporate this advice on my own LinkedIn profile and web site soon!

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