Can Social Media Help You Get A Job?

(I wrote this blog post in 2010. Given that I presented about this idea earlier this year, I thought it was time to publish it.)

So, here's a good story. Having just finished my contract with Touchnote, I was looking for work. A friend of mine tweeted...

...I applied for the role at IPC and, after a couple of interviews, got the job!

A win for Twitter and Social Media? No. Not really. True, I spotted the job on Twitter - but the "how" of job spotting has less to do with social media, and more to do with luck.

Luck = Preparation + Timing

I attribute a lot of my success to luck.

But, really, what is luck? It's being in the right place at the right time. I want to explain how "luck" landed me this job, what part Social Media has to play in it, and how you can apply the same principles to your life.

How Luck Got Me This Job.

  • I fit the role.  Obviously there's nothing lucky about that.  I could apply for a thousand jobs in brain surgery and I wouldn't even land an interview.  Be realistic in what you apply for.  If you don't buy a lottery ticket, you can't win the jackpot.  If you apply for jobs you don't have a realistic chance of getting, you won't get the job.
  • Luckily, I was recommended by an insider.  I knew Cathy from back in the Vodafone days.  She knew of my work because I wasn't shy about promoting myself.  I kept in touch with her because she's an interesting, smart, and funny person.  And, selfishly, because I knew that one day she might be in a position to hire someone like me.  A lot of nonsense is talked about networking.  Keep in touch with your friends.  Let them know when you need help.  Follow up on opportunities they offer.
  • As luck would have it, the interviewer had seen me give a presentation.  I showed off Vote2010 at a Mobile Monday event - one of the interviewers happened to be in the audience and saw what I presented, how I presented it, and how I responded to questions from the audience.  Luck that we were both there?  Perhaps.  But I've presented at Mobile Monday, IIR, MDA, BarCamps and a host of other events.  Odds are that eventually I'd be interviewed by someone who had seen me on stage.

Luck is just being in the right place at the right time.

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

Practice. What I mean to say is, the only way to be at the right place at the right time is to be in a succession of wrong places at the right time, or right places at the wrong time. Eventually, you'll hit the right combination.

We make our own luck.  So, here's my top 5 tips for being lucky in job interviews.

  1. Looking for jobs is all well and good - but letting people know that you're looking is even more important. Use Twitter and other social networks to tell your friends that you're looking for a job. That way, if they see an interesting role, they won't think "he's already got a job, so I won't pass it on." Email people you used to work with. Email people you want to work with. I tend to avoid head-hunters, but if you're busy, getting professional help rarely hurts.
  2. Apply for lots of (suitable) jobs.  The more jobs you apply for, the greater the chance of landing an interview.
  3. Go for interviews for jobs that you don't want. Why?  Being interviewed is hard.  Getting practice is nearly impossible.  Working out all your little anecdotes and responses to tough questions is tedious and difficult.  Apply for jobs (see #1) which look fine on paper but are too far away, with companies you don't respect, or don't pay enough.  Use those interviews as practice for the jobs you do want.
  4. Network.  I don't mean pay to go to speed networking events.  Go to industry events (better if your current employer pays you to go) - attend informal events.  BarCamps, MiniBars, Mobile Monday - or whatever is suitable for your line of work.  And when you go, don't stay silent.  Always make sure you get to ask a question - people will take more notice of a good question than a good presenter.  Hang around afterwards and chat to people.  Don't force your card into their hand - be friendly.
  5. Present.  This is tough.  Start out at BarCamps or internal presentation sessions at work.  Get confident at speaking on a subject and answering questions about it.  Don't wait to be invited to address an audience - volunteer your services.  If you see a conference you'd like to attend - email the organisers and tell them you want to speak at it.  As with #1 & #2 - apply to lots, even those you're not mad keen on.  You never know who will be in the audience.

That's just what works for me. I make no promises that it will work for you. All I know is that if you put in enough practice - 10,000 hours according to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers - you'll become an expert at being "lucky".


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