Making the Most of Unemployment

Making yourself Stand out from the Competition

Like many other HR professionals I found myself unemployed during one of the worst economic crises this country has ever seen.  It has been a rough eight months of uncertainty  leads that didn’t pan out and hopes crushed  but I kept my head up and moved forward.  Luckily I recently landed myself a new job!

A lot of people have asked me what I have done to keep myself busy over these past eight months.  I worked a few jobs to make sure I could pay my bills, but I didn’t stop there.  I knew that I had to do something to make me stand out from a crowd of thousands of other highly qualified HR professionals who are in a similar position.

Making the Most of Unemployment

With that said I decided to capitalize on social media to develop my personal brand.  (You hear a lot of great information on this topic by Dan Schawbel on his “Personal Branding Blog” so check him out if you can.)  What could be more perfect than an avenue to market yourself to a multitude of people across the globe?  Best of all…it’s FREE!    I started with Facebook.  Policing your profile for inappropriate comments, pictures and information from friends is essential!  Also, consider taking precautions by making your profile private or limiting what the public can see.  These are easy options available to you under the “settings” tab.  You never know when a potential employer could be viewing your profile.  After tackling a cleanup of my Facebook profile I began to share it with professional colleagues.

LinkedIn was a bit easier to set up as it is a professional networking site, whereas Facebook is considered more personal with professional networking becoming more frequent.  Your LinkedIn profile is essentially an online resume that you can continually tweak.  Know that there are limits to the amount of information you can include in sections of your profile, meaning characters.  You don’t need to put everything on your profile, just enough to make you look enticing to a potential employer.  If you have positive relationships with past managers and colleagues see if they will leave you a recommendation of your work.  Include a picture but make it professional and make sure you can actually see your face – crop it if necessary so it is a head shot.  Join common interest groups and contribute to conversations.  Lastly, solicit feedback from other HR professionals but be able to take constructive criticism!

Out of all the social media applications out there I must say that Twitter is my favorite.  It takes a while for most people to get the hang of Twitter but when they do it’s a breeze.  You need to ask yourself some questions before you take on this application.  Why do you want to use Twitter?  What kind of persona do you want to maintain?  For me, I decided I would use it mostly for professional purposes.  I believe the most important portion of your Twitter profile is your “one-line bio.”  This is what defines you and what most people will look at to determine whether or not they want to follow you.  Include things that are important to you.  For example, my one-line bio currently reads “Creator/Editor of, blogger, HR pro, social media nerd, Prez Big Bend SHRM, Tech. Dir. HR Florida.”  You need to be selective as you have only 160 characters to get your persona across.  Tweet – a post on Twitter is commonly referred to as a tweet.  You’ve got 140 characters to say something – pose a question, make a statement, recommend someone, link to your profile on LinkedIn, etc.  Develop your own rules for who you follow – you don’t need to follow everyone!  I follow people who are in the HR field, others who have common interests like philanthropy or people from where I have traveled/lived.  Just because someone follows you doesn’t mean you need to return the favor.  I currently follow 323 individuals and no I do not know most of them.  However, at one point or another we connected or I found something they said to be interesting, making them worth following.  If you are not sure who you should follow, feel free to follow me or look for recommendations via #followfriday.

The idea is to create a buzz around who you are and what you do.  Take the initiative to explore these social media applications.  Don’t just sit back and watch, get involved.  Share your opinion to a discussion in a LinkedIn group.  Become a fan of a organization on Facebook.  Follow an HR blogger on Twitter and retweet (repost) something they said you find interesting.

With a strong reputation in the business community as my foundation I have been able to develop a personal brand in the world of social media.  Although I may not be some big named business guru I am learning and helping to educate others while working my way up the ladder.  My last piece of advice is to connect with successful HR colleagues that have gone above and beyond like Kris Dunn of The HR Capitalist or Mike VanDervort of The Human Race Horses.  Use resources like Fistful of Talent to read about hot HR topics, learn other viewpoints, share, comment and discuss.  Reach out and ask for advice, it can’t hurt.  I reached out to HR pros like Michael Long of The Red Recruiter and Laurie Ruettimann of Punk Rock HR to ask for advice and to share ideas.  It has paid off and these friendships that I have developed may come in handy along my career path.  There are so many resources out there available at your fingertips.  Find some way to make you stand out above all other candidates and make the most of your unemployment!

What would you do to make the best of unemployment?  How would you or do you make yourself stand out from the crowd?  Please share your suggestions!


St14-stephen_100pxephen Geraghty-Harrison is Head Chef for HR Gumbo, a human resources themed blog focusing on topics including HR Certification, recruiting, strategy, employee relations, professional development, social media and more.  He is an operations and people manager with a passion for social media and relationship development and is currently a Human Resource Specialist for higher education in Tallahassee, Florida.  LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

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