Finale: Nobody Finds A Job Alone

Adriano Gasparri - My LinkedIn Profile

[This is the second part of a two part article on finding a job in 2010-11. The first part is here]

In the first part of this series, I discussed the past decade and how some individuals helped me find new opportunities, and how I had done the same for others. And up until my most recent employer, all these jobs were found in ways that haven’t changed much in the past many years.

In 2010, there are new tools, and a new (very) general acceptance about using them. Things have changed a bit. Not as much as you might think, or hope. But changed nonetheless. And some new lessons are appropriate.

Caveat: I’m not 25, and I’m not looking for my first real job. So what I write below might not be as useful for people under 30 as for those over 30. I recently read an interesting article here that might be more helpful for younger folks.

1. Old but true: You still need to Google yourself occasionally.

Why? Several reasons:

  • Every day, the likelihood of a potential employer doing it increases.
  • You should know what’s there, before someone else searches for your name and then asks you (or passes on talking to you altogether) because of what’s there.

But it’s not just about playing defense. You can do a lot to influence what Google puts into those top 10 search results. And don’t think it’s difficult and not worth trying. Search Engine Optimization might be big business, but that’s because if you’re Coke, getting on the top of Pepsi searches is nearly impossible, and therefore expensive.

You’re not Coke.

If you have a very common name, like my friend Brian Gordon, you might be able to skip this step, because it really will be hard to float to the top with so many other Brian Gordons out there. The same might even be true if your name isn’t common in the USA, but it is in e.g. India or China, so the result is the same. But the less common your name is, the more important this step becomes, because it is easier to find the real you.

When I Googled my name last summer, there was basically nothing on the first page that was really me. And the first page is the most important of all, since virtually nobody goes past it to look at page 2. Under my name, there were a couple of Amazon.com reviews I don’t remember writing, a handful of listings for those creepy public record sites that scrape government webpages, and some Usenet postings (see? Usenet. I told you I was over 30).

Today, the creepy sites are gone, only one Amazon review remains, and everything else is from my blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Much better.

2. Today, we don’t have privacy, we have content (aka Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and you)

If I am hiring today, I go take a quick look at what the web shows about you. It’s easy, and since we’re strangers, I’d rather know something about you than nothing at all.

I won’t dwell here on the obvious things about Facebook, since I doubt beauty pageant winners with grabby boyfriends (or girlfriends), or silly  people who like to photograph binge drinking will ever read this blog. But there’s something subtler at work here, a possibility, that you might appreciate: you’re not a spectator or minor character in your online presence. You’re the movie producer.

Like a movie producer, you can’t control all the variables (actors!), but you get to set the theme, the overall direction, and to solve the problems. It’s the same with what I see about you online. The best way to influence what I see about you, since you’re never going to be famous and no one else is likely to intentionally write about you, is to crowd the other stuff off the front page. You, my friend, need to write. You need content.

So write. But do it in a controlled environment, like forums, blogs, personal websites that aren’t blogs (remember those?). And sure, write on Facebook. But let’s be serious here: for as long as you live, Facebook is now a megaphone for you, not a never-ending public conversation. You look outward, the way radio shows and businesses do there. Your days of Liking, commenting, and posting things you wouldn’t want your 9 year old niece to read tomorrow, are over. And whatever you can clean up today, do it. I have spent a lot of time tweaking Facebook privacy settings. You haven’t (be honest). Plus, Facebook changes them all the time. Stop playing chicken, and stop being reckless. The only people who should spend lots of time on Facebook are people who aren’t in the workforce and never will be again.

PS Same for Twitter, with a twist: if I see that you posted thousands of items and retweets, and the top couple of dozen aren’t quality stuff and interesting links, I might pass on you. Who has that much time to spend on Twitter? BUT, again, you benefit from the same effect I mentioned above about Google’s first page of results. Virtually nobody looks at page two (who has that much time?). So post 25 good quality tweets, to crowd out the other junk you put up there. Then either stop cold turkey, or keep up the good content stream.

And that brings us to LinkedIn.com

Older than the others, and smaller too. Much more boring. Incredibly boring. Like 75 million resume-length business cards, LinkedIn is the anti-Facebook. Everyone’s profile on LinkedIn is either non-existent or chock full of descriptions from (apparently) the greatest business people to ever walk the Earth:

strategic thinker, innovative planner, and hard worker

– versatile professional with a decade of experience in multi-system global logistics who personally saved $1.2316 million by optimizing throughput in 3rd shift plants (how? where? is that a lot, relative to what you had to work with?)

–  John Smith, 3 LinkedIn contacts

Yet, LinkedIn is where the recruiters go. They might look at Facebook second to find bad stuff and save themselves embarrassment, but they go to LinkedIn to find good candidates. So when you are writing your content for your LinkedIn profile, you should lean more toward what you would write on Facebook than what others write on LinkedIn. Like I said, LinkedIn is smaller than FB, but it’s still 75 million strong, and that’s a lot of competition. Plus everyone there is scared of messing up, the place reeks of tension, so it’s easy to be noticeable by loosening up just a little. You need to stand out. Good news for you, everybody else is as boring as heck. So make your content as warm as you can get away with, write as much as you’re allowed to, and if someone writes you a generic recommendation send it back. And you, you write good, memorable recommendations for other people. Write for them first, pay it forward. Sow and reap. Any questions along that theme, read the Part 1 article again.

LinkedIn is so important, I am going to rephrase what I just said: This is where people find you for new jobs. Be as warm as you can while staying professional. Generate lots of quality content in your profile. Link to, or embed, your other content from your blog/Twitter. And show that you think (I know that you think, so show it). A weakness on LinkedIn is that your competition focuses on saying what they did but in the most generic possible way. You say what you did, but show that you think about stuff too.

(You can do this. Honest. I know you can. In most of life, ideas alone aren’t worth much, but they are valuable when someone is willing to write them for public view. So show us yours.).

Some other thoughts about LinkedIn:

a. Upload a picture. I use a cartoony graphic mainly because I want something that looks the same on computer screens and mobile phones, can be used on my blogs and other profiles, and would generally carry across wherever I was found and be recognizable. Someday I will switch to a photograph again. You should start there, if you can. And in your picture, fill the whole frame, look at me, and smile. Please.

b. Think about buying a premium membership for a month or two. There are some interesting features included.

c. Invite me to connect with you (just search for Dean Waye). Don’t use the generic message LinkedIn offers you. Tell me why we might be able to help each other, or be interested in working together someday. Or tell me you want to write a guest post on my blog (these things don’t write themselves, you know 🙂 )

d. Join some groups, especially groups in your industry and your college. It’s a good way to connect with new people. Don’t join jobseeker groups, though, except maybe for a day or two, to find the recruiters and connect with them. Then quit. Tip: The recruiters are the ones with 9000+ connections.

Summary (where it all comes together)

It’s great when someone hassles you to take because they know you’re a great fit. Absent that, you can do a lot with social networking sites to put your best face forward and show that you’re a thinker and a doer who is responsible enough to manage the Internet Age’s replacement for personal privacy on Google and everywhere else. Be personal, post the odd trivial piece, but mainly keep the least impressive parts of your life off Facebook, and swing a little bit the other way on LinkedIn.

And if you find a great use for Twitter, send it to me? I still don’t truly see the potential there for individuals, yet. Maybe I should think about it…