Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
31 Jan 2011

The power of your network in your career

31 Jan 2011 • by Changeboard Team

Social media revolution

If we were to start a conversation about ‘social media’, I would be willing to bet the word ‘Facebook’ pops into your head straight away. That is understandable - the world’s second biggest website has radically transformed the way we think about how we present ourselves, communicate and share information in a new sphere. Indeed, what was once relegated to furtive glances at work as a quick diversion when the line manager’s back was turned is now being touted as a phenomenon that has had an effect on most industries, from travel to retail. Recruitment has, however, been significantly slower to be affected on such a dramatic scale.

The possibilities of ‘social media’ in fact stretch far beyond Facebook - it's not simply about being tagged in photos of your last holiday, but about a significant change in the transmission of information. The days of a top-down information stream transmitted by the favoured few are gone (I think few would doubt that) and this is becoming more apparent at all levels of job searching and recruitment.

How can social media help senior executives?

At Bright Network, we work mainly in young professional and graduate recruitment, and have seen first-hand the growing power of social media being used to immensely positive effects by creative and dynamic young graduates looking for that first permanent job. One that really stood out was the campaign created by a bright business management graduate, in which he challenged businesses to bid to offer him the best job. His Employ Kyle campaign used a specially created website, as well as other social media channels to encourage bids.  Most importantly, though, it simultaneously showed his entrepreneurial attitude (and personality) in a way a CV never could, and allowed the world to talk about him over several on - and offline channels. Similarly, the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones recently highlighted the example of Graeme Anthony and his use of an interactive video CV posted on YouTube. When this was spotted by the PR agency Frank, Graeme was invited to interview and awarded a job.

However, these developments, which a more social approach to information has facilitated, are not just limited to first jobbers and graduates. The outstanding examples set by Kyle and Graeme are particularly relevant to that age group simply because the nature of their job search is currently so competitive. What these examples show, however, is the impact social media can have on communication and generating interest, which can help anyone build their network: it is this that can be the best tool in your job search at any level.

Online networking

The power of the network is immense. Statistics vary across industries, but it's estimated that at least 60% of people find their jobs through networking. Referrals and word of mouth marketing are thought to fill jobs more frequently and more effectively than postings on job boards. If you consider the possibilities opened by social media to create and maintain connections online, you can build yourself an incredible arsenal to help land that next career move.

It's probably at this point that the word ‘Facebook’ begins creeping in to your thoughts again, and the images of this type of social media puts some people off the approach. Most people agree it is not the best platform to use to present yourself to a future employer, and many are often cautious about taking networking online for this reason.  Don’t be put off. There are numerous more professional online networks out there, ranging from the general to the niche. Form your own basic social media strategy by deciding on one or two that really work for you, then put in the time to create and maintain your profile on these sites, interact with others on the network and take part in groups or discussions relevant to you.

Power of your network - and others'

Maintaining a network on - or offline is a gradual process, but one which can bring many benefits. For example, the consultants I work with are constantly building their professional networks and using them to meet new, relevant people, and to introduce strong candidates to the best roles for them. They have been able to place people they’ve met both through networking online, and from following up online connections made at events, in senior roles in a range of financial firms. They have also been able to use their networks to meet referrals from their connections, most of whom have gone on to interviews and some have then been hired. This not only highlights the power of your own professional network, but the importance of using your peers and their networks too.

Sharing information to progress your career

The future of searching for jobs and progressing your career will doubtless become more about connecting and sharing information, and social media provides you with the tools to do that. Referrals and recommendations made on an online network are incredibly important, and can often give your career progression the boost you are looking for more than just firing off a CV in response to a job board posting. Networking and sharing information has moved online - the process of recruitment is evolving too, and those who can adapt to it and use it positively will find they gain the most in their career.