There’s no denying it. I love social media and all things the Internet has to offer (with the exception of privacy breaches). And while there’s unlimited opportunity to connect with new people – from potential candidates to future employers – focusing your attention solely online is a misstep. It might not be a glaring mistake that appears so obvious after it’s too late, but instead, one that you may never know until you’ve made the effort to take a different path and try new tactics.
Depending on how well you know me or how well we’re socially connected, you may or may not have heard that I recently accepted a new position in social media management that will shift my strategic focus from how to recruit candidates to a job for a company to how to “recruit” or influence potential students to an MBA program for a university. While some of the actual processes will differ, the overall idea is the same: build relationships, shape brand perceptions and get them to accept an offer.
Career Networking: Getting Social Offline
To connect the dots between the previous two paragraphs, I’ve been thinking more and more about the offline experience and translating social relationships into regular “IRL” (in real life) time. As it is often preached to job seekers, it’s all about who you know…or at least who you meet and make a connection with. And although I will swear by the ones I’ve made on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc… because I can attribute many of the opportunities I’ve had in the last year alone directly to them, sometimes social networks and the Internet in general are simply too crowded. Enter an online, social site that actually drives face-to-face interaction: Meetup.com.
Near the end of August 2012, I attended a Chicago Content Strategists Meetup with the sole purpose of listening and learning to other local word nerds and user experience pros. For myself, I was looking for the opportunity to learn and expand my career and professional network. The Director of Content Strategy for the hosting organization did a brief welcome and made a quick mention that she was looking for a social media person, in case anyone was interested. While hesitant up front (as I was and still am working full time for my employer of almost three years), I decided to make a move and started a conversation after the event, where we exchanged cards. The rest, as they say, is…not that interesting – a typical recruitment process with interviews and resumes and HR paperwork. Regardless, it leads us to my point of the power and value of in-person interactions when it comes to standing out, as either an employer or a job seeker.
The Importance of Face-to-Face Networking for Employers
During a panel I attended earlier this year on college student perceptions of recruitment via social media, many participants had strong opinions against it. While showing off your company, culture and people is great for your employer brand, not all soon-to-be or recent grads are keen on being contacted through social networks or feeling as though they have to connect online in order to gain employment.
One student in particular said she craved the opportunity to meet and network with company reps face to face – whether through a college career fair, an open house or other networking event – so she could get to know them and make her mark without having to rely on an online resume or profile to stand out.
It’s time for companies to remember this and to stop overlooking the face-to-face aspect of recruiting and invest in relationship recruiting (even if it comes through Skype or other video interviewing technology). Contrary to popular belief, social media is not the only outlet to reach certain demographics, and that IRL time great for getting to know your candidates. And in many cases, they actually want it.
The Importance of Face-to-Face Networking for Job Seekers
From the other side of the fence, this experience has taught me that active and passive job seekers alike can really benefit from proactively networking face to face, whether looking for a job or not. Of course, this is not a new idea but a testament of what can happen when you take a step to grow your relationships offline. And though I wasn’t actively looking for a new role, I’m sure happy I attended the event, gained some insight into content strategy and ultimately landed the perfect position to advance my career.
During college and graduate school, I often dismissed the idea of networking. “What a joke,” I thought. Even after seeing it work for my colleagues, friends and family, I was skeptical. But the past few months have eliminated every ounce of doubt I once had, and I hope it’s encouraging to others readers who may have or are currently struggling with their job search.
If you take anything away from this post, no matter your position, it should be this: don’t be afraid to start conversations, meet new people and talk in-person because it does work. Don’t be afraid to get out there and build a relationship in your recruitment efforts.