Dr Judith Done and Professor Rachel Mulvey have written this handy guide to digital jobsearches for EmployID.
Find out more in their book Brilliant Graduate Career Handbook available from Amazon
Do I really need an online presence in order to get a job?
Clearly, not everyone is the same; many will be familiar and happy with virtual communities in an online world, others might feel less comfortable, confident or convinced. There is no clear-cut answer about the need to have an online presence. In some industries, it is vital. In others, it is of little consequence. The important thing to know is that you are always in control of what you post. You can choose to have only a professional presence online, for example LinkedIn, and you can closely monitor what you post. You could perhaps limit your commitment, by joining a specific forum to add your voice to a particular debate, or using Twitter just to follow a particular person in a field that interests you. It is probably wise to use online networking, even to a limited extent, and for a limited time, because it does show that you are willing to embrace the new and maybe even to come out of your comfort zone. We’ll return to this topic later on.
So, knowing that you are in charge, let’s have a look at digital jobsearch.
Think about it from the employer’s perspective
For an employer, taking on a new person is a big deal. It is going to increase their payroll, it is probably going to cost them money just to get their vacancy publicised and, when they do find someone, they are going to have to allocate time (which is a valuable resource) to integrate the new employee into the workplace quickly, so that they can function well and be a valued addition to the organisation. Employers care a great deal about getting the right person for the job. They don’t want a huge range of applicants: what they want is to choose from a range of suitable candidates so that they recruit the right one for their job, which is why employers are keen to get their job out there where people can see it. They can use a range of media to do this: print, online and networking (sometimes called word of mouth) and also social media such as Twitter. Using social media can be very attractive to an employer, because it is cost effective. It also gives the employer an opportunity to look you over online before going any further in the hiring process.
How employers get their jobs out there
Posting job vacancies online is increasingly common. To find them, you simply need to go online and start looking. You’ll find plenty of employers advertising direct to online jobsites. Or perhaps their newspaper advert is made accessible online by the newspaper in question. The official government jobsite in the UK (www.jobseekers.direct.gov.uk) is searchable by region, industry or company. There are also employment agencies that work on behalf of a range of employers, which means that they might be comprehensive (e.g. www.monster.co.uk) or specialised by: occupational sector, such as healthcare and medical jobs (e.g. www.healthcare.jobs.com); jobs in the financial sector (e.g. www.roberthalf.co.uk); by restricted entry (e.g. www.thegraduate.co.uk); or by geography. Some big employers may have their own vacancy web pages such as the NHS (www.jobs.nhs.uk). Graduate Prospects is the best-known graduate careers website and is pretty comprehensive (www.prospects.ac.uk), but there are other websites that specialise in graduate recruitment, including www.milkround.com and www.graduate-jobs.com.
Include social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in your jobsearch. Recruiters make use of any medium that is cost effective, so don’t rule any out.
Online vacancies: is more necessarily better?
There is no doubt that by advertising a vacancy online an employer can reach a far greater pool of potential applicants. What is more doubtful is whether the greater pool will necessarily have greater talent. The same çthousands of job vacancies. In one way, this is great, but you will need to narrow this choice down so you find the kind of job you want, and the kind of job you are a suitable candidate for. Without some kind of filtering mechanism, you could waste a lot of time looking at irrelevant jobs, and you could waste even more time applying for jobs without really thinking. You might even find that you are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of vacancies advertised online and that you become stuck, not knowing how to deal with them all. You do need to have a look at these websites and get a feel for what they offer and how they work. Then you need to make them work for you by being selective. Choose a handful of online sites and limit yourself to those for a couple of weeks. You can always change your choice of sites if you’re not getting the leads you want from the sites you have chosen.
Be a smart jobseeker
Actively manage your online jobsearch: set filters and review your website choices regularly. Allocate a specific, limited time for checking vacancies online.
Your online presence: networking without borders
There is no doubt that networking is important and, in some occupational sectors, e.g. photography, creative arts, it is invaluable. If you are making something or offering a service, a picture tells your story effectively and with impact.
How networking works
In essence, when you network you take a conscious decision to make the most of every new contact you make, and you treat every single encounter as a possible job lead. You aren’t asking them directly for a job, you are simply making them aware that you exist, and that you are the kind of person anyone would want to have working with them. So, no matter how unlikely it may seem, or how remote the chances are of getting a job opening from a random encounter, you work on the principle that every lead could be the one that takes you further towards your brilliant career. Unfortunately, there is no set formula that determines how many contacts equal a job lead. You simply have to be on the alert and be ready to present yourself as a possible employee at any time.
When you network, you aren’t asking directly for a job, you are simply making people aware that you exist, and are the kind of person anyone would like to work with. Your presence online shows that you are confident and proactive.
The Internet offers unprecedented possibilities of making yourself known to a very wide audience; and these possibilities can work for you or against you. It is possible to find job opportunities and useful leads through your online presence. However, once you have an online presence, it can be readily accessed by your employer or potential employer – who could think the less of you for having seen uncensored comments or images on your page.
You can establish a presence online by: creating a website or a blog; opening a Twitter account; or joining a social network such as Facebook or LinkedIn. You may be asking yourself whether you need to go online to network but, before we address that question, let’s run through the online options.
Websites and blogs
Setting up your own web page allows you to showcase who you are and what you can do. In some sectors it is a very good idea to have a web page. The creative industries, for example: if you are looking for a job in design, it is really important that an employer can view your work. This applies as much to a web designer as to a jewellery designer. The web page then functions as a sort of portfolio that can be accessed by anyone at any time.
A blog (the term is a contracted form of web log) is also a type of web page, but with the explicit intention of charting what has been happening. It allows you to update easily, and should really be updated regularly as an out-of-date blog creates a bad impression. Again, a blog can show what you are capable of, and what you have been doing.
Good example of a website
Have a look at this website. Two young arts graduates showcase their talent, their products, their values. They also blog, not so much about their products, but about their daily life and creativity.
By seeing the faces behind the products, we can see their story and buy into their lifestyle.
If you have an online presence, keep it up to date. Perhaps not daily but certainly on a regular basis and at least every week.
A forum may be set up on a website or blog so that the online readers can share responses and ideas on a particular theme. They allow you to express your opinions without necessarily committing to regular input. They also allow you to see what other people are thinking, which might help you to work through a particular issue or challenge. You yourself can use a forum to pose a question and this can be a good way to get into a challenge or problem when you feel really stuck and don’t have any clear idea of the way forward. Examples might include: what’s a telephone interview like? or, what should I wear to the evening meal at an assessment centre? In this way, you are learning from the collective experience and wisdom of others.
Social networks are, at heart, online communities. Just like a real community, you join as a newcomer, make friends and then make friends with your friends’ friends. You can then chat, share photos, set up meetings, seek advice and do all the things you would do in real time, but online. There is, however, a clear distinction between different types of social network, what they are used for, and how they are viewed.
Drawing the line between personal and business networks
Broadly speaking, the distinction is between social networking for personal reasons (having fun, gossiping, showing off even) and social networking for professional reasons (getting a job, making business contacts, showing off even). The trick is never to confuse the two. This distinction shows up in the way different social networking sites have developed. Facebook, for example, is definitely for having fun and is therefore a personal space. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a social network that is clearly aimed at the professional and business side. Keep this distinction clear.
Facebook is for fun, LinkedIn is for business. Keep personal and professional quite separate.
Looking at your personal pages from the employer perspective
While your friends might find it funny and endearing to hear about you embarrassing yourself at a party, your employer (or potential employer) may take a very different view. There are more and more cases of employers seeing material that their workers have posted and, as a consequence, taking disciplinary action including dismissal; and this is where the material has been posted in a personal capacity. If you already have a social networking page, you might like to go through it and take down anything that would put you in a bad light if seen by an employer. And before you post anything from now on, ask yourself if you would be happy to put the post in your window, where it could be seen by passersby, friends of the family or people who know you but aren’t necessarily your friends.
Review any social network presence you have set up. Ask yourself this: is my online behaviour how I would behave if a potential employer was in the same room?
Twitter is also another online social network, but it has the unique selling point of microblogging. As with a blog (or indeed the status aspect of a social network page), people post an update on their page to show what they are doing, what they are thinking, what is happening in their life right now. On Twitter, however, these posts are restricted to a maximum of 140 characters: this makes for microblogs or tweets.
How Twitter works for jobsearch
Twitter can be useful for following people who lead the way in particular industries as you can see what their thinking is and in what direction they, and by extension their work domain, are heading. Twitter can also be a practical source of job vacancies, and employment agencies do post tweets about new vacancies even before the adverts are posted online. Of course, you’ll only get a very brief sense of what the vacancy is (because of the restricted length of the tweet) but that might be enough for you to decide whether to follow it up or leave it alone.
Start with one small step
If you don’t want to commit to a permanent online presence, just contribute to a one-off forum or follow someone on Twitter. Come out of your comfort zone and show you can take on a new challenge.
Digital jobsearch – the essentials
Remember anything online can be read by anyone, including your next boss
Show that you’re interested: ask questions, add comments
Be polite: no personal criticism, no ganging up on people
Be professional: avoid slang and no swearing, ever
Keep your stuff up to date: weekly works well, but monthly as a minimum
Keep with it: even if you feel you don’t fully understand a new medium, it will become familiar and you’ll improve
Dr Judith Done and Professor Rachel Mulvey, February 2017.
Rachel and Judith are the authors of Brilliant Graduate Career Handbook available here from Amazon
Done, J & Mulvey R (2016) Brilliant Graduate Career Handbook. 3rd edition. Harlow: Pearson