By Miriam Salpeter, owner of Keppie Careers, a job search and social media strategist, career coach, resume writer, author, and speaker.
Traditional media would have you believe using Facebook is a good way to lose a job. There are people who post inappropriate status updates, photos, and comments that land them in hot water at work or result in them losing coveted positions. However, you may be surprised to learn how many people acknowledge Facebook as the source of their current jobs. Jobvite, a recruiting software company, recently published a report indicating 78 percent of job seekers who use social media to propel their search said Facebook was the most useful tool.
How can you make the most of Facebook?
Cultivate a professional profile.
Assume everything you include in your Facebook profile is public, even if you have stringent privacy settings. Untag yourself in and delete photos that a potential employer might consider inappropriate. Critically evaluate your status updates: do you post a disproportionate amount of whiny, complaining comments? This will hurt your chances to leverage your friends’ connections for job opportunities. (No one wants to take a chance on referring you to a colleague or contact if they can’t be sure you have a positive attitude.)
Keep professional information public.
Conventional wisdom tells you to lock down your Facebook profile with a deadbolt, but if you want to help people find you via Facebook, it’s important to allow certain information to be public. Edit your “Work and Education,” “About You,” and “Contact Information” to allow them to be visible to everyone.
Showcase what you know.
Are you sure all of your Facebook friends know what you do for a living? Frequently update your status to keep your community in your “professional loop.” Are you taking classes to make a career change? Post updates such as, “Really enjoying the coursework to earn my meeting planning certification. Looking forward to planning an event for you someday soon.”
Make a point to keep yourself (and your expertise) top-of-mind by sharing links and news related to your field. For example, if you’re seeking opportunities in green architecture, a status update could be, “So impressed by recent data about cities turning their buildings ‘green.’ Take a look at this post from today’s New York Times: (include a link).” Consistently updating your status with these items will set the stage for your Facebook friends to help you land a job.
Ask for contacts.
As long as you don’t make a habit of constantly asking for help with your job search, it’s acceptable and appropriate to occasionally request help directly from your Facebook friends. For example, “I’m researching engineering firms and hoping to speak to people who work at X, Y, and Z companies. Do you know anyone who might be willing to meet with me? Thanks so much for your help!”
Visit and frequent “Company” pages.
Companies are spending a lot of time, effort, and financial resources to connect with potential applicants via Facebook. Many have “careers” pages, and even more have “company” pages. Visit the pages and add smart comments. For example, if you are interested in a job opportunity, don’t say, “Do you have any jobs for chefs in the Boston area?” (That’s something you could easily find out via the company’s website.) Instead, post, “I was so impressed to read in Cooking Light that [insert the company’s name] was named an innovator in the clean eating movement. Looking forward to reading more.”
Consistently make comments showcasing your expertise and knowledge about their organization. When you do apply for a position, post a note saying, “I just applied online for the XYZ job in Omaha. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to talk about the connections between your needs and what I can offer.”
Use Facebook applications
There are several Facebook applications that make it possible for you to create a professional network within Facebook separate from your social and casual posts. Two of the best known are BranchOut and BeKnown. Both of these tools provide a way to build out a LinkedIn-like profile, including your professional information and endorsements from colleagues and supervisors. Especially if the majority of your immediate network prefers Facebook to LinkedIn, these applications are useful to connect and create a professional presence.
Glassdoor.com recently rolled out an application called “Inside Connections,” which allows you to see which of your Facebook friends are connected to a company where you want to work. This is another great way to tap into your social media community for your job search.
Networkers land jobs.
Keep in mind that social networking is just an extension of traditional networking; when done well, both help people land new opportunities. Don’t forget to leverage Facebook for professional use, and you may find it’s one of your best job networking tools!