This September, SMW London will be hosting a Career Day to help local attendees learn how social media can be used to their advantage. As we build up to that, Lisa Chau interviews NYC local Career Coach, Melissa Llarena.
Melissa Llarena has been coaching entry-level, mid-level and seasoned professionals for more than 10 years. In 2012, she decided to officially incorporate Career Outcomes Matter LLC (i.e., the firm), which is headquartered in Astoria, NY, and certified as a Minority Business Enterprise by the New York & New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. Her client base has included professionals across a variety of sectors who were ready to change roles, explore new sectors, or work in new countries to accelerate their careers. As coach, Melissa has often championed “least likely” candidates as best contenders for the exact stretch roles that changed their career paths.
Melissa earned an undergraduate psychology degree from NYU and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. She received more than $200K in scholarships to fully fund both degrees. Melissa started her career at JPMorgan Chase working in HR, and then continued at Reuters as a trainer. She later successfully transitioned into internet marketing, which positioned her well for her subsequent roles promoting mega brands such as American Express, IBM and Charmin. Parallel with her business ventures, Melissa has successfully coached peers since 1997, including as a student at Tuck working as a career development fellow. Her interest in professional development education led her to develop and conduct an interviewing workshop for Harvard University, helping undergraduates and graduates interested in finance careers. She also created and delivered the “Emergency Kit for Thought Leaders” seminar for MBA students at Baruch College in NYC.
Melissa, many of today’s job seekers are not prolific social media users, how should they begin to incorporate this practice more into their process of landing a job?
ML: Start by assessing your Google footprint. Google yourself. This will help you prioritize where you need to clean up your image and then you can start introducing the best social media vehicles into your job search. LinkedIn is the clear winner (for now) when it comes to the one tool you must incorporate immediately into your job search process because recruiters are there and actively seeking candidates 24/7. Spend time completing your profile with an emphasis on your headline. Your headline is what everyone can see (including folks not connected to you) so spruce it up by making it clear what you do and if space allows include your point of differentiation e.g. Remarkably Collaborative GAAP Accounting Director at Citicorp.
How can job seekers resolve the conflict of social media’s very public platform with the need for confidentiality while searching for a job?
ML: There are different solutions to staying private during a job search depending on the platforms in which you are operating. In Facebook, create a group and invite only folks that can help you land your next role. This allows you to keep your job hunt talks within an intimate group of people whom you trust. In LinkedIn, change your privacy controls. Turn off your activity broadcasts so that your current boss does not see in their newsfeed that you connected with 15+ recruiters or are now following a peer company. While using Twitter, you can control who sees your tweets. The big lesson here is make adjust these settings before embarking on any social media campaign. Learn how you can remain as anonymous as you need to be to retain your current job yet be findable so that you can attract the right opportunities; there are ways to accomplish this balance — It just takes homework.
What are some general best practices in using social media when looking for employment?
ML: Use social media to…
- Get to know your audience firsthand (i.e. from the horse’s mouth) before chatting with them to have richer and more successful conversations.
- Learn about prospective organizations to identify the areas of opportunities where you can best contribute your skills (e.g. consumer discussion boards, Facebook comments).
- Position your experiences, interests, and skills in light of the jobs that you desire. Blogging is a great way to start repositioning yourself for a new field.
- Garner brand advocates during your job search by highlighting your strengths, viewpoints, etc. via social media so that your network can confidently endorse your candidacy.
- Accelerate a job search by updating your status to efficiently reach a wider net of people more quickly than having to call all 500 of your contacts (of course, be aware who can see that status update).
Does social media level the field for people trying to get jobs in completely different geographic locations?
ML: Yes, social media opens the world to job applicants. However, I wouldn’t say social media levels the playing field completely. Instead, social media facilitates a job hunt for people seeking opportunities in completely different geographic locations. For instance, if you want to work in Argentina then you can leverage your social networks to learn about the opportunities there as well as what an Argentine CV looks like.
However, just as you can use social media to find great jobs and prepare for them, so can others around the world (of course, those with internet access) because they are also on social media. As a result, social media has also made the job search process more competitive because applicants can come from a wider geographic footprint. At the same time, there are still very real hindrances that social media does not resolve including the need for work authorization in relevant countries and oftentimes the need to conduct in person interviews. In terms of the latter, there are both US firms as well as non-US firms that will not accept a Skype video interview as a substitution for an in person interview– They still want to meet a job candidate in person before making an employment decision.
Please tell us how to leverage groups on LinkedIn.
ML: Join up to 50 groups then prioritize your top three LinkedIn groups and actively start or join in on discussions within these three groups at least once a week. LinkedIn groups enable you to demonstrate your thought leadership amongst seasoned professionals in your desired field. However, it only works if you are more than just a passive LinkedIn group member. Instead, rise to the top and become an influencer. Share compelling articles, provide your viewpoint and make suggestions. Once you are an influential contributor then you can connect with group members and they will accept your invitations based on your credibility as an influential group member. With regards to your other 47 LinkedIn groups, keep an eye on them by receiving weekly emails that outline new discussions, comments, jobs, etc. Engage in those other 47 groups as appropriate and read suitable content to increase your sector expertise. To learn more about how to optimize your LinkedIn groups going forward read my blog that talks about how to avoid missing out on the weekly opportunities LinkedIn Groups present to job seekers: http://bit.ly/Lcu15f
Do you have other advice on using LinkedIn?
ML: Credible LinkedIn recommendations are critical yet underutilized. LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to showcase endorsements from your colleagues, former bosses, and clients. Here are some best practices to consider when thinking about LinkedIn recommendations.
A great recommendation is:
Specific. When asking for recommendations give your endorser ammunition i.e. relevant information to make it easy for them to write a specific recommendation.
Strategic. Think about the gaps in your candidacy for your desired job. For instance, if you’ve never had a direct report then ask for a recommendation from a team member within a team that you led — Have them highlight a skill you exhibited, a skill associated with managing a direct report e.g. giving clear directions.
Supportive. It validates your greatest strengths. Be wary of accepting and displaying a recommendation that contradicts your greatest strengths.
Reciprocated. If someone recommends you and you have great things to say about them, volunteer to write a recommendation for them. This strengthens existing bonds.
Is Facebook useful at all for job seeking? Do you know anyone who landed a job using Facebook?
ML: You can never tell where you’ll hear about an opportunity and Facebook could just be the medium in which an opening is announced by one of your friends or even a company. Think about the sector in which you’d like to work and then consider if they are looking for a social media savvy hire. If the answer to that question is YES then expect to find information about jobs across social media platforms including Twitter. For example, if you desired a job at Gary Vaynerchuk’s media firm then expect to learn about the opening on Facebook amongst other channels.
Alternatively, there are appropriate pages including Mashable – Jobs which you can “like” to receive work information via your newsfeed including real opportunities. Also, be aware that there are rumors of an up and coming Facebook Jobs Board. According to Mashable, if such a job board is available via Facebook then you’ll need to include Facebook as a job hunting resource. Read more about this here. Lastly, I do know someone that launched her business because a friend put a request on Facebook: A request for a caterer to cook for a bridal shower she was hosting – This strictly a Facebook opportunity that she would not have known about if it were not for Facebook.
How does Twitter help break past gatekeepers?
ML: Aside from the situations in which a PR firm is handling a Twitter handle, there are some top executives that actually like tweeting on their own such as Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos as well as Dan Kim, Founder and Chief Concept Officer at Red Mango. You can follow them, engage in their conversations, retweet their messages and eventually you may find yourself engaging in a 1-on-1conversation with a top executive at a firm you’d like to work for, thereby making it past gatekeepers. Yes, this strategy takes time, however, if you really respect a leader you should be following him.
Lisa Chau has been involved with Web 2.0 since graduate school at Dartmouth College, where she completed an independent study on blogging. She was subsequently highlighted as a woman blogger in Wellesley Magazine, published by her alma mater. She has also been published in US News & Forbes. Since 2009, Lisa has worked as an Assistant Director at the Tuck School of Business. Follow her on Twitter.