Five Ways to Land a Job in Social Media

February 1st, 2010 | Shonali Burke | 12 Comments

This is a guest post from Chuck Hemann, someone I’ve enjoyed connecting with in the online world, and whom I very much hope to meet offline soon. Read on for great tips on landing a job using, and in, social media.

Social media jobs are popping up around every corner, and so are the people looking for those jobs. Unfortunately, the economic downturn took a heavy toll on the PR profession. Jobs aren’t as available for the experienced, or entry-level, professional. Because of the dearth of opportunities, many pros have taken to the Web in an effort to network and potentially land a new career.

If you’ve ever connected with me online or offline, you’ll know that I recently accepted a social media associate position with WCG, global media services company focused on the corporate and product marketing and communications needs of leading healthcare companies. I have enjoyed my current role as manager of research and online reputation for Dix & Eaton, but was hoping to land something more social media-focused.

If you currently have a job, or are recently unemployed and looking for something new, or even a recent college graduate who is trying to break into the workforce here are five tips that helped me land my job in social media.

1. Identify your niche

Social media may be new, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a host of cottage industries within the space. Are you interested in measurement/monitoring? Are you interested in community management? Are you interested in SEO? For me, that space was in monitoring and measurement so I made sure I got to know the folks from Radian6Katie PaineDon BartholomewKen Burbary and a host of others you can find through my Twitter lists.

Do not try to be all things to all people. The end result will be you’ve spread yourself too thin, and probably not become noticeable in any one category.

2. Identify the “influencers”

I usually hate the term “influencers” as there’s really no standardized method to determine who’s truly influential, but in this case it makes sense to determine the 10-15 people in your niche that you’d like to read, and interact with. A Google search for any of the topics I’ve mentioned above will certainly help in that process, but don’t be afraid to ask. Use LinkedIn forums or Twitter or your own blog to ask people who they find influential.

3. Take a position

One of the pieces of advice I give to entry-level pros, and even more experienced professionals, is take a position. Nobody likes the guy/gal who waffles (unless you’re Switzerland), so figure out what your position is on the hot topics within your niche and express them.

Is this potentially dangerous? Sure, but prospective employers are looking for the ability to articulate and defend an argument. My first opportunity to do that on a large scale came when Jason Falls allowed me to share the approach to social media listening that I helped cultivate here at D&E on his blog. Search for those same opportunities within your niche.

4. Engage those “influencers”

Social media, regardless of the particular tool, does not come with an engraved invitation.

You either take the time to get to know the folks who are influential or you don’t. I haven’t “met” a person yet who is unwilling to engage people who engage with them. Take the time to get to know the influencers in your space and then engage them where they live.

5. Take it offline

Your online interactions can only take you so far. At some point, you need to meet the influencers in your space in real life. Whether you meet them at a conference, a tweetup, or just strolling through their neck of the woods you’ll no doubt gain more value from the relationship after you’ve met them in person. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many social media folks over the last two years and wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.

These are just five things that worked for me. If you’re interested in other takes on landing a job, I’d encourage you to check out the posts from Teresa Basich and Lisa Hoffmann, both of whom have recently started new jobs in social media.

If you’ve recently landed a job in social media what worked for you? Do share!

Chuck Hemann, a 2010 Society for New Communications Research Fellow, is currently the manager of research & online reputation for Dix & Eaton, a communications consultancy with specialized expertise in social media strategies and tools. On February 15, Chuck will begin a new role as social media associate for WCG, a global media services company focused on the corporate and product marketing and communications needs of leading healthcare companies.

Image: Laurie Nadeau, Creative Commons

Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
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Good post, Chuck. Also, be sure to identify HR people on networks such as Twitter. These folks are popping up everywhere and can be good resources for applying to various jobs.

PR at Sunrise -
@Worob - Twitter

Mark Sofman
Mark Sofman

Let's try this on for size. Instead of "influencers" why not refer to a single "influencer" as a "locus" or plurally as "loci?" That way they might become known as "locusts" and each has its own "swarm" of connections, etc. Or is this way too Old Testament? ;-)

Veronica Sopher
Veronica Sopher

Chuck -- Having observed your interactions on various social networks, it's easy to see that you've done solid work in all 5 areas you listed in this great post. Thank you for summing it up so well! There's simply no substitute for being genuine when it comes to putting social media to work, and you're the perfect example. Congrats again on both of your new titles!

Chuck Hemann
Chuck Hemann

Hey Andrew - good point. There are a growing number of HR folks on social networks - not just Twitter. thanks for the comment.

Chuck Hemann
Chuck Hemann

I'm not sure the folks who are influential who like to be characterized as locusts, but hey, anything to avoid the term influencers. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Chuck Hemann
Chuck Hemann

Hey Veronica -

That's awfully nice of you to say. In retrospect, I think #5 is the most important. You absolutely have to take your online interactions offline. With that being said, hopefully we get a chance to meet some time soon.


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