In order to find a job, you only need a resume, business cards, and a nice suit, right?
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This may have been true in 2001, but in today's wired world, many more options are available to you. Why not try them? After all, submitting your resume blindly just doesn't work. If you want to try something new with your job search, social media is a great place to start.
Hands down, the best social media site for the job seeker is LinkedIn. It's an extension of your resume and a Rolodex of your contacts all rolled into one. LinkedIn is free, and you have total control over how much you share and with whom you connect. There are an estimated half a billion users on LinkedIn from more than 200 countries – so there are plenty of opportunities on the platform.
Use LinkedIn to expand on your resume, connect to old colleagues, and grow your network. It can be a great way to find people who work at target companies and connect with your potential future bosses and colleagues.
That being said, LinkedIn is not the last word in job-search social media. I have been impressed by the number of business executives who use Twitter. It's not uncommon to tweet to someone in the C-suite and actually receive a response. It can be an unexpected way to forge new professional relationships.
Another site you may want to consider, particularly if you work in a creative field, is YouTube. An advertising agency CEO once shared with me that some of her most impressive applicants submitted short videos about themselves via YouTube. This helped them get the agency's attention in a sea of other applications.
The one social media network I would think twice about using for professional reasons is Facebook. Facebook has long been considered a private space to connect with friends and family. In fact, if you send a stranger a direct message, Facebook typically filters it out of their inbox by default. That means the person may never see your message. So before using Facebook, try other social media sites.
Using social media in your job search can give you a leg up on your competition. It can also help you shape your online presence. When a company searches for your name on Google, your social media pages are certain to be among first results. Think of Google search results like the new cover letter. Your social media pages tell a personal narrative about you, your beliefs, and your talent.
Don't worry too much about bothering the person you're contacting via LinkedIn or Twitter. Social media is just another form of communication, similar to email or phone. Be professional and polite, and you'll find an entirely new way to grow your network. It's far more effective than blindly submitting an application on a website.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.