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Finding Your Post-Military Career with Social Media

by Heidi Russell Rafferty, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: URS

The social phenomenon of Facebook has not gone unnoticed by Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. In 2009, Accenture piloted a new recruiting approach: the company started mining resumes by frequenting social media Web sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


"We adopted this in all of our countries and have focused on this in a big way," says John Campagnino, senior director of Global Recruitment at Accenture. "We're very excited about it! It's a key strategy to recruitment."

Campagnino and social media experts agree that in this new era of instantaneous and virtual relationships, it behooves every job seeker to make the most of social media. But what is the best way, and what are the pitfalls in doing so? Here are a few guidelines on leveraging the biggest social media sites to win your dream job:

Understand that each social media site has a unique purpose, says James Lee, president of The Lee Strategy Group Inc. in Los Angeles. His PR firm specializes in using online social media sites for clients.

For example, LinkedIn is a strong business/resume platform and good for making connections to people who are once or twice removed from you. Twitter "is an opportunity to leave a breadcrumb trail of what you have been doing." And Facebook gives you the best ability to post links to examples of your work, videos and photos of you as you achieve a goal. "You need to develop a strategy and approach specific to each," Lee says.

Of the three, the most important for job searches is LinkedIn, Lee and Campagnino agree. "From a professional standpoint, it allows you to post a virtual resume. The one advantage is that it has is the concept of circles of friends. It connects you to other people by having them recommend you. You could search for people in the Home Depot Co. and make a connection to the person you want. LinkedIn will tell you how many steps removed you are in your network," Lee says.

LinkedIn also allows people who work with you and manage you to post recommendations about your work. "That's a powerful incentive to get on that Web site: to allow colleagues in the military and others in prior civilian jobs to say things about your character," Lee says.

If you don't want to see it on TMZ... don't put it out there. The best rule of thumb is that since it's more difficult to put something out there and limit who sees it, that it's best not to post really personal things at all, Lee says.

Campagnino notes that your sites don't have to be fully professional but should have appropriate personal and professional content that outlines your skills, qualifications and interests. "We look for well-rounded individuals, so it would be appropriate to put in sports activities, special interest groups, but be careful about polarizing through religious or political affiliation," he says.

Be active in your online relationships. "Too many people just add people without any real connections or actions," Lee says. "The thing to remember is that social media's purpose is to aggregate content... When you dive into it, prepare to be active. Have discussions and provide information to others. The currency of social media is to be useful. If you do nothing with it, you might as well not put it up at all."

Make sure people on your networks know you are looking for something. Too many people assume otherwise, unless you explicitly let people know what kind of career or job you are seeking, Lee says. To do this, just post on Facebook a simple note like, "Hey, I'm due to be out of the service on this date and am looking for something in the civilian world. If you have ideas, let me know!" Also include pertinent information about your duties while in the military.

Offer your assistance before you request assistance, says Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, a nationwide job board. "Networking isn't about asking someone for help in landing a job but instead in asking how you can help others," Rothberg says.

To apply this practice to the virtual world, suppose your old commanding officer left the service two years ago and now is head of sales for a corporation and is in your LinkedIn network. Look for information online about his industry and send links to a couple of articles with a note: "I thought you'd find these interesting. It's nice to connect with you again." Then wait for that person to respond with a note, which will probably say, "What are you up to?"

"And then you have the conversation by e-mail or phone. You do not have to send direct messages through Twitter at this point," Rothberg says. "Social media is wonderful to help you establish that connection, but it does not mean the connection must be limited to those tools afterwards."

Connect to a company's social media page, especially on Facebook, Campagnino says. Being an active member of corporate "groups," or a Facebook fan, pays off and gives you insights into the organization. Accenture's recruiters also actively log onto job sites where there are open chats. They watch people's comments live and even contact them for interviews as a result of what they say online.

"You can't sit back and wait. Competition is tough. Get out there and proactively reach out to recruiters on LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter." Campagnino says.

Freelancer Heidi Russell Rafferty is a reporter with 19 years of experience who writes about employment and business issues.

 

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