The term personal social network instantly calls to mind various well-known online sites created to connect with others. Believe it or not, this term used to, and still does, apply to groups of people that have actual face-to-face contact with one another. This post will address the importance of both online and offline networking and examine three different concepts that will ultimately help you land that job. These are: Elevation, Connections, and Perceptions.
Using Your Personal Social Network to Elevate Yourself
You’ve probably heard the saying: “you are only as good as the company you keep”. In many respects, this is true. But the concept of elevation is not about making yourself look better in the eyes of others. It’s about surrounding yourself with positive, successful people in your personal social network that will elevate your thinking and who will naturally push you. These people will give you the motivation you need to be successful in your job hunt, as well as the ambition to set your sights on the career you really want. When I first graduated from college, I went back to my hometown and began spending too much time with certain friends from high school. Unfortunately, many of them had chosen not to pursue any secondary education and, honestly, they didn’t have any ambition to either. Few cared about having any type of career and were content to slowly move up pay scales, hang out at dive bars, and live day-by-day for the rest of their lives. This didn’t make them bad people, but spending all my time with these types of friends wasn’t challenging me in any meaningful way, nor did I encourage me to really go after what I wanted and do what I needed to do to make a career for myself. In fact, I even encountered some people who would ridicule me for having gone to college and pursuing an education. What kind of bullshit is that?
Perhaps you have encountered a similar situation at some point in your life. This isn’t to say that you need to ditch all of your current friends and hang out at libraries and befriend random intellectuals. But what you can do is try and spend more time with people who, while they may not be your best friend, will challenge you in ways that will help you grow and move forward, and enhance your personal social network. Having just one or two of these positive influences in your life can greatly outweigh the benefits of having seven or eight neutral or negative influences.
It sounds strange, but what you can do is basically a relationship audit. Write down all of the names of people that you spend time with on a somewhat frequent basis (such as someone you see at least once every two months) and take a moment to think of how each of those people affect your life, and your personal social network. Cut back on those that you feel hinder you, and spend more time with those that help you. Friends that elevate can help you to:
- Improve self-motivation
- Enhance ambition
- Inspire confidence
- Enable action
Believe me, when a job search gets tough, you need these above factors to keep you moving, and even just trying to move. Avoiding hopelessness can be the name of the game and, let’s face it, looking for a job can get depressing. Keeping those positive people in your life is going to help you avoid that.
How can your online network elevate you?
Connecting online with friends and relatives who are doing well in life and even branch out to people that you don’t necessarily know but who are successful in certain areas that you admire can elevate your personal social network. Even if you never see any of these people in real life, it helps to have a baseline of success from other people. Check up on them through Facebook every once in awhile and just see where they are in life. Is someone you used to know really impressing you with what they are doing? Send them a message and start a conversation, and maybe even get some guidance and help if you need it.
Using Connections to Get a Job
If the concept of elevation didn’t quite strike a chord with you, the notion of using your personal connections certainly will. Probably because using our connections is much less of a concept than a strategy when finding a job.
Ever meet anyone that has a cushy position in a great company, but doesn’t really seem that smart or capable? It’s likely they got there from knowing someone within the company or knowing someone that knows someone within the company. Those looking to hire someone are people just like you and me; they like familiarity in a candidate, just as we would prefer to know someone before we go out on a date with them. Getting hired doesn’t always boil down to beating out every other person in a series of tests by having a better background, resume, cover letter or interview. It could simply be because that person has a friend that knows the boss, and that boss is willing to let a mediocre interview slide because he or she has background information on a candidate from a trusted source. This really can go a long, long way.
So how can you find, and use these connections to boost your personal social network? Just like the idea of doing a relationship audit of your social group to figure out positive and negative influences, do the same with everyone you know and determine where they work, who they may know, and how they can help you. This can be as simple as asking your best friend for help, or emailing a professor that you had a class with two years ago whom you made a good impression on.
A lot of people avoid doing this, and feel like they should be able to “make it” on their own. I know I had this feeling for a while. But there really is no shame in using a personal contact to get you an interview, or even just an informational interview. If you do use a relationship which can get you an interview with someone, you will immediately have more credit than anyone else who came in off the street.
Using connections online to Get a Job
One online social network in particular can be a great place to create new connections that didn’t exist before. LinkedIn, which is a social networking site that essentially functions as a more professional version of Facebook, can be a huge help in finding a job. If you have never used or heard of LinkedIn before, it is a place where you can list all of your professional and educational accomplishments, connect with other people and follow companies. If you use it correctly, you can create a much more thorough version of your resume, make it public, and even list that you are looking for a job.
The reason LinkedIn is such a great connection creator is because users are able to list which company they are currently working for, and you have the ability to search for people based on their companies and even job titles. With that information made public and easily available, it’s a perfect place for you to connect with others that can help you in your job search, and maybe even get you an interview.
How Can I use LinkedIn to Get a Job?
Figure out which companies you may be interested in working for, or organizations within an industry that you would like to work in. Search for people that work for those companies on LinkedIn, and “connect” with them (same thing as a friend request on Facebook). Because LinkedIn is less about sharing personal details, attending events, or posting photos, it’s much more socially acceptable to connect with people within the network that you don’t really know, so there is no reason to feel weird about it. Once you have targeted someone that you think may be able to help you, send them a message, and let them know your situation and that you are interested in their company or industry. Don’t ask for a job right away, but focus on creating a connection to start. Then initiate a conversation in which you feel comfortable asking for an informational interview, or if they know anyone else in the company that could help you get one.
Of course, before you do any of this you will want to make sure that you have a professional, interesting and worthwhile profile. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but you just want to make sure that you take the time to create a profile that can actually help you. Think about your entire profile as an extension of your resume, and treat it as another document that you would send to an employer.
Using Perception to Get a Job
One step beyond using your connections in your personal social network is the power of perception: how you are being viewed in the eyes of others. When looking for a job, these outside perceptions of your character and work ethic can be useful if you are affiliated with certain groups, such as a volunteer causes that you have listed on your resume. The person looking over your resume may have a positive view of that group or be involved in the group themselves. This also applies to the college you went to, or past experience that resonates positively among hiring managers.
In terms of your offline personal social network, of course it is harder for those you are trying to impress to know who you are affiliated with personally. But let’s say you have an interview with someone who you know is an acquaintance of a past professor of yours, and you successfully bring this up during the conversation. Connecting yourself with that professor can help the interviewer perceive you in a more positive light. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a professor. If you are aware of any sort of common thread with the interviewer that you can connect yourself with, go ahead and do it. This will instill a sense of familiarity with you in the mind of the interviewer, which can be a very powerful thing.
Using Online Connections to Make Others Perceive you Better
Employing the use of personal connections is much easier to do in the online world, though it can both help or hinder you. This will be more thoroughly discussed in the section about online self- sabotage, but let’s briefly summarize that concept. Basically, it is very important to be mindful of who you are connected to online in your social networks, including any causes or groups you may be a part of online. Don’t think for a second that employers will not search for you online during the hiring process. If, when they find you, they see that you can be linked to parties involving drugs or alcohol, and “like” a lot of questionable content, how do you think that they will perceive you? You’ll instantly be removed from consideration.
Of course you can always make your profile private and avoid that altogether, to a degree. But remember – basically anything you put online with your name connected to it can be discovered, so be mindful of ranting and raving in sketchy internet forums about content you wouldn’t want your mother to see.
The real goal of your online personal social network and internet presence when looking for a job is to put yourself in a positive light. On Facebook and LinkedIn, try connecting with well-known people in the industry you want to pursue, as well as any other interesting people that are viewed as having positive connections. Affiliate yourself with groups and organizations that will make you look good. The easiest part about all of this is that you don’t have to actively be engaged with any of this process other than the initial setup; you’re just trying to foster the perception that you are a positive, intelligent, well-informed person who is associated with other people who also inspire those thoughts and emotions. It may seem silly, but having your name even loosely associated with other important people can help you get an interview and land a job.