Companies want to find and hire good people. As a job seeker, you need to make it easy for them to find you and recognize you as the kind of person they want to have on their team. Your LinkedIn profile is a good starting point, and it needs to be well maintained, but a savvy candidate should know there are lots of other ways to build that kind of presence online. Here we dive into a few of the corners of the internet where you may just find your next career opportunity.
Finding Places to Participate and Contribute
In every field, there are places online where your colleagues gather to talk shop or discuss shared interests. Some are obvious, like the user forum at a major vendor’s site. Other communities come together in less formal settings, from special-interest Facebook groups to long threads on Twitter or Reddit.
There are several ways to find these groups. One of the simplest and most effective is to play follow-the-leader: Pick influential people and thought leaders within your industry, then follow them on social media and ask to connect with them. See who they’re connected to, where they post and who they share employers or personal history with. Then follow the chain of their contacts to broaden your network.
Being part of the same circles as a potential employer won’t automatically get you a job, but it does raise your profile as a potential hire.
Being the Right Person
Becoming visible to your next boss is only part of the picture. “You have to bring more to the table than your appetite,” as the saying goes. If you’re joining groups or making contact just to meet your own needs, it will be obvious to everyone. You also have to make a digital case for being the right person, or the right kind of person, to hire.
If you don’t know what potential employers look for, don’t guess: Ask a few. Third-party recruiters are also good people to ask, not only because they’ll have the information you want but also because it puts you on their radar. Once you know what those people are looking for, you’ll know how to sculpt your online presence.
As you find the right communities to be part of, be constructive and add value to each group. Solve problems, help someone out with a thorny bit of research or provide an introduction. If you’re a coder, for example, you might commit a patch or bug fix to a project on GitHub. If you’re a marketer, share something that has worked on a recent project. Be the person your peers would like to work with and learn from.
Making Those Contacts
Connections you make online aren’t always complete. You may have a name and a job title, but not a phone number or email. In some settings, you might have just a username. To make full use of your new contacts you need to fill in those blanks.
You might send a private message and simply ask. If that’s not an option, you’ll need to dig a bit deeper. Learning how to find email addresses or find out where someone works isn’t something you can do effectively with a few Google searches. Spokeo’s people-search tools provide a much better option, aggregating information from hundreds of millions of sources into a collection of search results.
Cold-Emailing for a Job
Reaching out to someone to ask for a job or a referral isn’t easy. It helps to start with the right people. If you’re a midlevel engineer and dream of working at Tesla or SpaceX, don’t email Elon Musk. Choose people at or slightly above your own level, who are much more likely to respond.
Once you track down the right person’s email, it is important to be mindful of the etiquette of cold-emailing for a job. If you have any point of contact, mention it immediately. More importantly, make your points and your request in the fewest possible words. Writing in the “Harvard Business Review,” Doug Camplejohn — VP of product development at LinkedIn and a recipient of many cold emails himself — reports that emails of 100 words or less work best. Ideally, your whole request should fit on a phone’s screen. Make your message as personal and informal as you can, like a brief handwritten note.
You may or may not get a reply, and that’s fine. Nobody owes you a response, so just move on and try someone else. If you make a nuisance of yourself, you might get noticed for the wrong reasons.
Getting the job you want — or at least a job — isn’t the end of the process, but a beginning. Don’t stop building your online presence or making new contacts, even if you land the job of your dreams. As you move forward in your career, the quality of your network will help define how far you rise and how much influence you enjoy.
Fred Decker has written widely on technology, general business topics and personal finance, drawing on the experience gained in earlier careers as a former restaurateur and financial services consultant. He has written for the Houston Chronicle, Livestrong.com, MSN.com and many other high-traffic sites. Decker was educated at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia Community College, and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.