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Job seekers, social media is your new PR firm

I am sitting across the table from my mentee, Curt, a bright and talented technical professional, whose self confidence has not just eroded, it washed away months ago with the labor market undercurrent. He hates looking for a job. No, he hates the rejection that is part of job hunting. No, he hates trying to market himself. No, he hates the idea of selling himself. After all, his track record should stand on its own. He is in love with his resume chock-full of accomplishments and skills, and with enough technical acronyms to induce any resume reader into a catatonic state. But no employer has contacted him.
I provide Curt tips on how to begin networking and marketing himself. I discuss techniques to help sell himself in an interview (that I helped set up for him, by the way). He literally puts his head on the table and with mock sobbing recounts his one-month failed attempt to sell cars at the local Honda dealer. And I thought Hondas sold themselves. Curt has many jobless brethren with the same fears and insecurities. They must learn to apply themselves as marketers and sales people if they will ever land a job and they don’t know where to start.
This week, job seekers and career experts convened for the first AmericanJobsConference on Twitter sponsored by TweetMyJobs.com. Former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty opened the conference with keynote tweets followed by a panel of career experts including Mark Suster and Lou Kerner. Live Twitter chats followed with social media experts such as personal branding expert and best-selling author Dan Schawbel and HR social media thought leader Jessica Miller-Merrell.
This event was unprecedented in several ways. First, it linked job seekers to national career experts to receive real-time coaching on personal marketing, personal branding, social media tips for developing themselves as referrals and finding job leads. They could also expand their own networks by connecting with many other participants. Second, they used social media, particularly Twitter, to facilitate and demonstrate the power of networking. One objective of the conference was to better equip job seekers like Curt to become personal marketers through social media.
A common and important skill discussed was how a job seeker can develop their referral network. Any recruiter will tell you that finding trusted referrals are most often their best source of qualified candidates. And while most recruiters still use job boards for job posting and resume search, they are becoming experts on using social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to find their best candidate, often referrals.
Job seekers must learn to leverage social media tools to engage their friends and contacts to refer them to job opportunities — many of which are often not ever posted. A job seeker’s contacts in essence become their best PR channel. A recent study by CareerXroads Inc. found that on average one hire is made for every 10 referrals while one hire is made for every 219 applications through job boards. Which odds do you prefer, one in 10 or one in 219?
The labor market is changing. Variable workforce strategies (temps and contractors) are becoming more common among employers, making full-time jobs more scarce. My message to my job seeking clients is “embrace social media as your new personal PR tool.” And don’t just start when you are out of a job — start now! Play with it and you will soon see the advantages while also having some fun. Friends like to help friends and they will refer you to opportunities. Just ask and let them market you.
At lunch yesterday, another friend, Tim, an attorney, told me he had received a pink slip last week. He told me he had no use for FaceBook or any other social media. “It’s a waste of time.” Well, I imagine if he ignores these great tools, he will soon have plenty of time on his hands… to waste.
John Williams, SPHR, is a Human Resource Consultant to RCR Wireless News, www.rcrwireless.com, a leading wireless industry news service, and TelecomCareers, www.telecomcareers.net, a leading telecommunications industry job board. Williams recently served as VP HR for ITC Deltacom and previously held executive and HR leadership positions with Clearwire Technologies, MCI Systemhouse and EDS. Williams is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources and an active member of the Society of Human Resource Management.

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