Can ignoring social media kill a career?

In today's competitive job market, social media has become the new jungle. Is a reluctance to sign up for a LinkedIn account keeping you from the job of your dreams?

Quite possibly, according to Dan Schawbel, personal branding expert and author of "Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success."

Increasingly, companies looking for workers are investing more resources into social ads on Facebook, Google AdWords, Craigslist, Twitter and blogs, Schawbel says.

"Social media is replacing classified ads," he says.

Having an online presence is essential for today's job seekers, "because if you aren't visible, you don't exist to the world," Schawbel says.

LinkedIn membership growth

"If I search for your name, or someone with expertise like yours, and you don't come up, you will lose an opportunity each time that occurs. If two candidates have the same background, but one has a popular blog, the blogger will be hired," he says.

The new rules

Marci Reynolds, CEO of J2B Marketing in Boston -- which helps job seekers with "social media and job search" -- agrees that companies are turning away from job boards and toward social media when hiring.

In some cases, companies post jobs exclusively on social networking websites, especially when targeting candidates who are "social media savvy," says Reynolds, who is also a sales and marketing consultant, blogger and author.

Schawbel says some job seekers, such as those in the service industry, still may have luck pounding the pavement and scrutinizing the Sunday classifieds.

However, others -- especially those who set their sights on executive level positions -- need to establish a strong online presence.

"You should disregard classified ads from your job search if you're a serious job seeker," Schawbel says. "The best jobs in the world aren't advertised, and if you make a phone call or submit your resume to a classified ad, you'll be one of hundreds, if not thousands, to do so."

Instead, job seekers should use social media to build relationships and help make themselves "one of one," he says.

"The only way to do that is to build a relationship with someone who works at the company that's advertising," he says, adding that social media allows job seekers to skip job boards and corporate websites and to "connect directly with hiring managers."

How to do it

So, how can job seekers put their best foot forward in cyberspace?

For starters, it's crucial to maintain a professional online presence that reflects the position you want and the skills companies are looking for, Schawbel says.

A growing number of companies rely on search engines like Google when scouting for potential candidates, he says. However, too many job seekers use keywords and job titles from previous positions when branding themselves, even if they hated their old jobs.


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