“I am passionate about social media.” I’ve seen this line in dozens of cover letters, resumes and LinkedIn profiles that I’ve reviewed in recent weeks as we try to fill an opening for a social media planner.
But often, I find myself doubting that the candidates really mean it.
Why? Because when I take the time to read their blogs, their Twitter feeds and their Pinterest boards, I find musings on everything BUT social media. They talk about their opinions of movies, celebrities, politics, fashion, sports and music. They talk about what they’re buying, watching, hoping, eating, drinking and regretting.
But what they don’t write about is the industry they claim to be “passionate” about joining. And that leaves me with the impression that these candidates are looking for a paycheck, not a career.
Part of the problem is college. Of course freshmen and sophomores don’t want to be writing about their future work. They want to explore their new freedom as adults, meet interesting people and share their experiences. In other words, they want to have fun. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But once you’re preparing to launch your career, it’s time to start thinking of how potential employers are going to view you through the lens of your social media presence. This isn’t just about removing evidence of your more embarrassing escapades; it’s also about showing that you are someone with a curious mind and a capable intellect.
College grads aren’t the only ones at fault, though. Often, the same thing happens to a candidate looking to switch jobs or recover from a layoff. Maybe you haven’t been blogging about your field because you never felt it was necessary. Well, now it is.
Whether you’re a recent grad or a mid-career job hunter, here are a few tips that might help you get on the right track:
- Start a new blog dedicated to your professional niche. There’s no reason to stop writing a personal blog, but creating a second site can help you focus on professional content without confusing your friends.
- Use Google Alerts, Twitter searches and blog subscriptions to stay on top of your industry, then write about your findings. Most employers don’t have time to truly stay abreast of their fields, so it’s easy for you to come off looking more informed than they are.
- Respond to thought leaders in your industry via Twitter and blog comments. It’s not about kissing up to them, it’s about showing that you have an opinion and a backbone.
- Create original content. Why just retweet and reference other bloggers when you could be out creating your own case studies? Writing about someone else’s opinion shows you’re paying attention, but writing about your own discoveries shows that you’re earning your keep.
- Look for opportunities to put your writing in front of new audiences. Sites like The Next Great Generation create fantastic forums for emerging talent.
- Stay true to yourself. Don’t try to be so corporate that you drain the life out of your own digital persona. Write about your hopes. Write about your dreams. Write about your favorite nude archery goddess-birth opera at Burning Man. Just be sure that the content you’re creating online represents both facets of your life: the personal and the professional.
On second thought, maybe keep those Burning Man stories to yourself. Some things are best left locked behind heavy-duty Facebook privacy settings. At least until you’re hired.
Photo credit: Chelsea Phillips on Flickr.