Advancing your career through social media: Who to follow, how to get ahead

social media networking

The job market has dramatically shifted over the past few years, and so have the way hiring managers and human resources professionals recruit talent. One big reason for the change is social media networking, which offers job seekers many new avenues of career exploration and introductions about how to change careers that would have been unthinkable in the past.

From learning the industry ropes by following thought leaders in their intended field to making connections and engaging with prospective employers to actually landing a job with a tweet, many young professionals are using social media to launch and advance their careers. Here are some ways to put the most popular social platforms to work for you.

First, some general advice

No matter which platform you plan to use for your career pursuit (LinkedIn is a must, by the way, followed by Google+ and Twitter), it's important to present yourself in a professional way. That starts with a using a quality head shot of yourself as your profile photo, and coming up with a strong, succinct description of your skills and talents.

You'll want to use a keyword-specific biography so that your page will be discovered in relevant search results, and it's in your best interest to use up as much space as each "about" page allows. For Twitter, it's short and sweet, whereas on Google+ and LinkedIn, you'll have a lot more leeway and sections to fill in.

Each profile can link to other social accounts, and your blog or website if you have one. Remember that being consistent across all pages will add to your personal brand.

A word about Facebook

Some recruiters are using Facebook these days, too, even if it's just to screen candidates. Don't be fooled by the more personal feel of the network into thinking it's OK to post anything and everything; privacy settings aren't always airtight. If it could be perceived in a negative way by outsiders, you should think twice. The occasional party photo holding up your drink is probably fine, as long as it's not part of a larger pattern of behavior that an employer may deem irresponsible.

Social networking is a two-way street

It has "social" in its name for a reason. You have to give in order to get on social media, so do plenty of sharing, pinning, retweeting, +1ing of other people's content. It will create good will, while helping other people discover you and want to make a connection.

If you log on only to promote your own agenda or ask people for job leads, people will be less likely to support you.

With all that in mind, here are some platform-specific strategies to add to your job hunting to-do list.

1. Twitter

Twitter is all about following the right people, sharing thoughts and spreading messages, and connecting with others. All of these activities can help you network with people in your industry. As far as advice for job seekers, there are lots of career experts you should start following for great tips on resumes, interviewing, and the job search as a whole. Start with these five, and see who they follow to start building your network:

  • @AlisonDoyle
  • @BrazenCareerist
  • @HeatherHuhman
  • @YouTernMark

Another thing to consider is trying out a Twitter chat. By following a particular hashtag at a designated time, you can take part in a conversation, ask and answer questions, and — again — make those valuable connections. For example, #JobHuntChat takes place on Mondays from 10 to 11 p.m. Eastern time.

2. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the place to be for all professionals, no matter your level of experience. In fact, some experts say that your LinkedIn profile is an extension, or even a replacement, of your resume. Beyond creating a killer profile and asking those you know to connect, you should also post your own updates and comment on that of others to increase engagement.

Another smart idea is to follow your alma mater, as well as any companies of interest. College pages make it easy to find out where alumni are working, so you have an "in" to ask for informational interviews or advice, while company pages can keep you up to date on news, job openings and more.

LinkedIn groups are also a good time investment. You can join up to 50, so choose those that are in your industry, your geographic region, school groups and so forth, and then leave room for a few job and career driven groups. Here are three good ones to start with:

  • Job Openings, Job Leads and Job Connections!
  • Career Explorer
  • A Job Needed — A Job Posted

3. Google+

Much like LinkedIn, Google+ is becoming an important way to connect with like-minded professionals. Definitely make the most of your profile page by including all of your pertinent information and links to your other sites, and segment the people you are following into circles. This will help make it easier if you want to share an update or post an article to a specific group of people.

Google+ also allows you to join various communities. Like LinkedIn groups, communities are a good way to make industry connections, share and comment on articles, and stay on top of the latest news. Plus, there is no limit to the number that you can join.

Here are a couple of dedicated job seeker communities to check out:

  • Job Search Advice + Recruiter Contacts
  • Google + Jobs Forum

With social media, you get what you put into it. If you take the time to build relationships and learn from others on one or more of the above platforms, it can help lead to opportunities and potential jobs. Happy connecting!