Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Re-Boot Camp Week 5 - Expanding Your Online Presence and Connecting with RIT Alumni

For those who have not yet jumped into the social media pool, or who have only dipped in their big toe (a LinkedIn profile, for example), a job search presents the perfect opportunity – in fact almost a compulsion – to dive into the deep end.  Today’s work environment demands a degree of social media savvy – you can keep up and thrive, or get left behind. 

Why expand your online presence?  Put simply, when looking for a job, you want people to find you – and be impressed with what they see.  The image you present online is your way of introducing yourself – your first impression to potential employers.  A majority of recruiters, both corporate and third party, use LinkedIn and other social media sites to source candidates for open positions, so if you’re not fully utilizing these sites you’re missing out on potential opportunities.   In addition, most companies (85-90%) check online for information on candidates.  You’ve probably heard that you should Google yourself to see what you find; most often people think only of negative results, such as college party pictures, or a convicted felon with the same name as you.  But having no online presence, or an incomplete online identity, can be equally as damaging; you’ll be perceived as dated (not good if you’re an older candidate), not relevant to your field, or you’ll just be invisible and passed over. 

So the first step is to do an assessment of your current online presence.  You will of course want to clean up any “digital dirt,” or inappropriate material you find.  Remove pictures or comments, change privacy settings on personal pages, and even consider using a service for assistance in online presence management.  Then it’s essential to increase your positive search results by expanding your presence.  Be sure you’re participating in the top three social media sites – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  On LinkedIn, have a powerful and dynamic profile (view the presentation Connections: Using Social Networking in your Job Search on our alumni career page, for specific tips), join groups, and connect with key people in your targeted companies/industries (like RIT alumni; more in a bit).  Set up a Facebook account, a separate one for professional purposes if you’d like it separate from a personal one, or use the lists feature to separate your personal and business contacts.  Connect with friends and business colleagues, follow company pages, and showcase any projects, part-time work, community activities or other highlights you’d like people to see.  Set up a Twitter account; follow industry experts and companies, connect with recruiters and others in your field, and demonstrate that you are current with the latest technology.

Whether you’re currently employed or looking for your next challenge, it’s important to showcase your expertise and accomplishments.  There are many ways to create an online portfolio to show your work; use LinkedIn applications to add videos, slideshows or articles to your profile, or build your own website with work samples, links to articles, information on awards received, and you can even start a blog, to post commentaries on your industry or field.  There are many sites to help you make a website and profile your work, including http://about.me, http://flavors.me, www.behance.net, www.wordpress.com, www.weebly.com, www.slideshare.net, and www.box.net.   

In expanding your online presence, your other goal is to find people.  You want to connect with people who can help connect you to the decision makers in your targeted companies.  Cast a wide net with this; ‘friend’ old high school and college friends on Facebook, connect with former business colleagues on LinkedIn, and follow industry experts and professional association members on Twitter. 

You also want to connect with RIT alumni, and there are many ways to do this.  If you’re in an area where one exists, join and become active in an Alumni Chapter (https://www.rit.edu/alumni/groups/).  Even if you attend a sports or social event, you’re still able to network with other RIT alumni.  The Alumni Network (https://www.rit.edu/alumni/alumninetwork/) through the Tiger Locator lets you search on a number of criteria, including geographic location, major, field, and company, for alumni to whom you can then reach out.  The RIT Professional Network is a tab in Job Zone, our online job listing system, and is a database of alumni willing to connect with other alumni for informational interviews; you can search by field, company or major.  In Facebook, you can search for and join groups from RIT.  LinkedIn is a great way to connect with RIT alumni.  Join the alumni groups – the Official RIT Alumni group, the unofficial group (started before the official group), the group from your college, and our RIT Career Services group; once a group member, you’re then free to interact with other members, some of whom may work at your targeted companies.  Of course other groups will be helpful, and may have alumni members as well – you can join up to 50 groups, so be sure to join a variety of industry related as well as RIT related groups.  Under the Network tab (across the top), click alumni and you’ll see a list of RIT alumni, for the date range you specify, as well as where they live, where they work and what they do.   You can also do an Advanced People Search, which is helpful if you’re looking for alumni at a specific company.  Once you have prospective contacts, reach out to connect (with a personalized introductory message), or get introduced through other connections you may have in common.  Connections may be able to help you bypass the standard application procedure and provide a reference (or at least an introduction) to a hiring manager. RIT alumni are very willing to assist one another, so take advantage of your shared alma mater experience to expand your network and further your job search efforts.

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