Water Cooler: Social media: How to put it to work for you

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Click here to respond to Career Link’s July 2014 Water Cooler Survey question: “Has social media been useful to you in your job search?”

  • Yes, especially Career Link’s Facebook page
  • Yes, I use it regularly
  •  It hasn’t helped me at all so far.
  •  I haven’t tried it yet.
  • What is social media?


Social media: How to put it to work for you

By Melany Hallam

Were you like me when Facebook and Twitter really started to take off a few years ago—you just didn’t get what all the hype was about? Why would I want to see a photo of what people I barely knew were having for lunch? What self-indulgent drivel.

Even though social media has become mainstream, you may still think that your online presence is irrelevant to your work situation. At one time I thought so myself, but I’ve recently had a complete about-face on the effectiveness of social media and here are just some of the reasons why:

  • Build your customer base: I just started doing some social media work (Facebook, Google+, YouTube) for a client, promoting her workshops, books, DVDs, and CDs. I’m learning a lot about what works for her business and how social media builds stronger—and longer-term—relationships with her client base. It’s a well-known sales rule that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. These 20% are repeat customers with whom you’ve built a relationship of trust and even friendship. Social media is a way of building these relationships 24/7, whenever your clients are online.
  • Sell your product to new customers: I’m a member of a few Facebook buy-and-sell groups in Powell River. I’ve discovered several people selling firewood through one of those groups and will be buying my winter supply through them this year.
  • Attract clients or potential employers: I regularly receive requests for connections through my LinkedIn profile, even though I haven’t updated it in many years. I keep dismissing these requests since they don’t fit with my current work goals. Which led me to wonder: how much work am I missing because my information is not up to date?
  • Research potential employers: Whenever I considered Twitter, I thought of a friend of mine who can spend hours on celebrity Twitter feeds reading about the whacky things famous people have been up to. But Twitter can also be one of the most open means of learning about companies you might want to work for. Those companies may announce job openings through Twitter, sure, but they can also tweet ideas and events and can allow you to have a direct conversation with employees. These conversations will give you a better idea of the type of employee they want—and help you decide if you want to work there.
  • Lose a job in one smooth move: In one of my previous jobs I was responsible for pre-screening résumés. I remember very vividly receiving one application with an email address referencing the applicant’s attractiveness to the opposite sex. I didn’t even have to do a social-media search for this person to get the impression that he was not the professional we were looking for.

On the most basic level, what social media boils down to is networking. I don’t know about you, but I’ve almost never found a job or a client through a conventional help-wanted ad or from cold calling. Most often, I hear from a friend that a friend of theirs at such-and-such a company is looking for someone. And they only mention it to me because they know what I do and what I`m looking for. You know how it works, right?

Social media—LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter—are ways of extending your network exponentially. If you’re clear about what you want, communicate that effectively (and professionally) and keep your eyes open for opportunities, your perfect job or business opportunity could be waiting for you out there. Go for it.


Still not convinced that social media is important? Take a look at this video by Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV-3ZgLRnAc&list=UULC9cX5GntaQmTSF6hTqrzA&feature=share&index=2

According to a recent study in the UK, one in 10 young job seekers are rejected because of their social media use (such as provocative photos or language). More than half of employers are using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to research job applicants. Want the summary version? Here’s an info graphic that was created using data from the UK study, but will likely apply to Canada and the US as well considering the stats in the video above:


A lot of advice and information on social media focuses on what not to do on Facebook or what photos you should never post on Instagram or Pinterest. There are also positive ways to promote yourself through social media. Here is some practical advice from the University of Waterloo, which has a very successful co-op job placement program:


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