Social media: A lifeline for job searching

Young people sit together and use smartphones
© Getty Images/Fresh Splash

The global pandemic spiraled many of our lives into an online-only environment in which digital profiles were no longer simply recommended, but became lifelines for job searching and networking.

In this article, I summarize what I consider the most important aspects you need to reflect and act on to curate a digital identity that speaks to the more moderate, traditional, yet forward-looking nature of German employers. 

Don't brand into a black hole

Regardless of your line of work, it is essential to actively cultivate your online identity – or algorithms will cultivate it for you. There is a variety of platforms you can use to brand yourself, but before you decide on the medium, spend some time thinking about what your aims are. Get concrete about what your goals are in representing and promoting yourself and who you want to be with you as you move throughout your career. In all that you curate and post, have at least one concrete goal and one target audience in mind. For many jobseekers this would be colleagues in the same field and potential employers, with the goal of obtaining a quasi-expert status on a certain topic and promoting one's work in the field.

Be picky about the platform

Before deducing which medium is the right one for you at this moment, remember that you need not be on all the platforms. Starting with one is the best route, and the way you can figure out which one makes the most sense for your situation is by reflecting on your goals, target audience, and preferred communication style. If you are job searching in Germany, I recommend working with a combination of social media such as LinkedIn, Xing, and the Alumniportal (see infobox below), but you should also be thinking about putting together a personal website soon. Before you decide on your target platforms, get familiar with the nuances between the social networks by spending time on each of them. Look at who from your field is there, who is not, and how conversations are initiated and moderated.

Most Popular Social Media Platforms 1997 - 2020

Most Popular Social Media Platforms 1997 - 2020
Most Popular Social Media Platforms 1997 - 2020 ©

The intentionally professional triad of personal branding

In crafting your online profiles, being thoughtful matters. As with your other career documents, your online presence represents you and how you approach your work. There are three key building blocks that make up the intentionally professional triad of digital personal branding: modesty, consistency, and authenticity.

Modesty: Inflating your experience by adding flowery language or exaggerating what you did will not serve you well in the long-term. It is easy to recognize – especially by recruiters and human resources personnel who spend their days sorting through prospective applicants. I recommend having at the very least an advanced beginner or intermediate level before adding a skill to your profile. Before adding each item, ask yourself if you could do a basic exercise in that skill at an interview. Could you have a small conversation in Spanish if the interviewee began speaking to you? If asked during the middle of the interview to code something on a company's website, would your HTML and CSS skills hold up to the test?

Consistency: With consistency, there are two main pillars – profiles and posting. Ensure that all of your profiles–yes, even your personal ones–are consistent with how you represent yourself online and in-person. Second, you want to avoid posting about a hodgepodge of topics. This goes back to the concrete target audiences you identified. You may be multi-interested, but you are crafting target audiences that expect a certain organized, predictable stream of content from you.

Authenticity: You should be representing yourself as the same person online as offline. Authenticity is an accumulation of everything we've discussed here and it cannot really be taught. You should feel 100% comfortable with how your profiles look, the information you publish about yourself, and the posts you create. It is also important to consider that we are focusing here on professional social media, so do your best to set obvious lines between the professional and the personal. You may be great at playing basketball, but unless you are a pro player, a video of your recent slam-dunk may appear out of place to your professional network.

By identifying your goals and target audiences, and purposefully threading consistency, modesty, and authenticity through all your online profiles, you are setting the foundation for a presentable, professional usage of social media for your job search.

Social Networks’ Evolution – Wharton Prof. Lori Rosenkopf at Global Forum London

Social Networks’ Evolution – Wharton Prof. Lori Rosenkopf at Global Forum London
Social Networks’ Evolution – Wharton Prof. Lori Rosenkopf at Global Forum London ©

Reflective Action Items

  • Audit: Do a review of your social profiles. Where do you need to delete? Clean up?
  • Strategy: What do you want to get out of online personal branding?
  • Target groups: Who may be your 1-3 target groups and why?
  • Platforms: What are the top three best platforms for your work/field?
  • Posting: What are the 2-3 main topics you will post about to define your niche? (Consider brainstorming post ideas and seeing what comes most naturally to you)
  • Niche: What do you want to be known for (topic of expertise)? What do you want to be contacted for (collaboration opportunities, jobs, etc.)?

Related links

Networking as part of your professional DNA

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