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Today, navigating the unsettled waters of career management and the important role that social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram play in connecting you with potential employers.
When social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Search and Instagram first appeared, there was a big “so what” sigh from most executives. For many Baby Boomers, they saw it as a plaything for Millennials, unknowingly discounting the value these software creations could have in helping them manage their career. They did not get it. They failed to comprehend the power and so they did not unlock the value boost for their own careers.
Today, you discount those social media platforms at your own peril. They are now essential tools in an executive’s career management toolkit.
Why then do so many candidates, even those whose job layoffs or termination transitions have been managed by big name outplacement firms still lack the fundamental understanding of how these very powerful programs work?
Social media has been transformational for the whole field of career management. The problem is that the vast majority of outplacement firms are locked into a transactional mindset. If it is working, why change it? The fact is, their approach is not working, and more and more, if you believe what their formal clients say in job interviews, a good number of those consultants have not adjusted to the fact that dramatic changes are occurring in today’s job market.
Bigger, once again, is proving that their size can be a problem. These national firms, even the smaller specialty career management organizations that have had great success, have been slow to change their approach and include more social strategy in their outplacement services.
As Bill Gates said, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
When the outplacement firm hasn’t changed, when they haven’t adapted to the digital age, it is the vulnerable job candidate who is depending on their expertise for guidance, who will be the real loser.
Lest you think that there are absolute experts in the field, consider this; the best outplacement consultants are the people who have opened their doors and embraced change in full throat. But they also know that the technology and the sophistication of the computer algorithms are rapidly evolving and that embracing those changes is a must if one hopes to remain relevant.
A fancy company name, impressive offices and geographic footprint, will not help you as a candidate to successfully expedite the time it takes to find your next job. Only their understanding of current market conditions and technological changes will save you from a prolonged period of being out of work.
Today I spoke with an extraordinarily capable healthcare executive who has been struggling to find a new position. When he was laid off from his healthcare position, the national outplacement firm in Chicago assigned a certified consultant who knew next to nothing about the healthcare industry. Nor did the consultant have much insight into developing a digital/social media strategy. When I asked this executive if his consultant taught him how to set up Google News alerts to inform him when the search engine algorithms detected a job opening that he might wish to pursue, he had no clue what I was talking about. The consultant was basically running a manual search in an automated society.
I asked him some basic questions that a well prepared candidate should be able to ace, but he struggled to get to the point. This is no B or C executive. He is sharp, well educated, and has a solid track record of performance. His only problem, one that is shared by the majority of Baby Boomer executives who are terminated or laid off, is that he is not an experienced or particularly knowledgable candidate when it comes to conducting a job search in the digital age.
Now, while there are some major league offenders in the world of corporate outplacement agencies, there are some great firms as well. Some are industry specific and on the cutting edge when it comes to helping candidates adapt. The challenge is finding one and then getting your former employer to pay their fee. Many companies negotiate contracts with the larger marquis outplacement firms – the bigger the name the better the employer feels. The companies exact fee discounts from the outplacement outfits which makes them feel even better about their decision to use the name brand. So with discounts in hand, the outplacement firms then figure out how they remain profitable at the price point they have agreed to. What that really means is they will offer less service and the real loser is the laid off employee.
The executive whose former employer picked the national firm said their outplacement support involved an uninformed consultant, access to office space with a section of cubicles where the out of work executives could make telephone calls and get some access to clerical support. He described the cubicle area as the “B-M-W pit” — most of the executives where bitching, moaning and whining about what had happened to them.
The smart outplacement firms have done away with the big overhead support mechanisms since most executives should be able to run their job search from their home offices. Technology has rendered the old school logistics support value model in outplacement irrelevant.
So forget the big name and the costly amenities that you really do not need to find a job in today’s market. Find a career transition coach who understands LinkedIn and who can help you develop a digital strategy for targeting potential employers. Remember, the vast majority of job searches are not controlled by the search firms. Most are filled with internal recruiters or referrals, and most internal recruiters live on LinkedIn.
Be sure your digital strategy includes an online profile that touts your value, not just a list of your prior jobs. Employers today are more interested in what you have accomplished. If your LinkedIn profile does not emphasize your successes, you are missing the boat.
Know how to use LinkedIn to search for valuable contact information of those you choose to connect with – for example – some people include their personal email address, birthday and other information that could be helpful. You just have to know where to look.
Learn how to use LinkedIn to show your contacts are related. This can be critical to landing the job. In one case, a candidate who lost out to the eventual successful candidate had a connection with a key company decision maker through his LinkedIn network but failed to capitalize on that advantage. So learn how to leverage your contacts for business intelligence and even direct support.
If you have a LinkedIn page, spend the money to have a professional photo taken. The research shows that recruiters are six times more likely to visit pages where the executive’s photo is displayed. This is an important element in establishing a connection and building a relationship.
Your digital strategy should also address content marketing. This can be a powerful tool but if you are not focused and have clear objectives in mind, you can waste a lot of time and effort. Here is what content can do for you — it can build valuable name identification and thought leadership credentials. It will not happen overnight which is a big reason you cannot wait to launch your career management strategy until you have lost your job. It is part of the professional networking development that so many executives push aside until it is too late. Your content must add value to your network. Posting news stories willy nilly can do more harm than good, and never ever post political opinions or news on LinkedIn. That is a gigantic no-no and if you ignore this important advice, be prepared for embarrassing pushback. That is not the way to enhance your image for potential employers. When you post, pick content that is news or noteworthy for your industry. If you are the first to post an important story or other business development you can receive a lot eyeball mileage for your effort.
In some of my posts, I have had as many as 16,000 views, and when people view a post they see my name, photograph, title and company.
The best content is that which you create yourself. One executive created an effective campaign with mini case studies, showcasing innovative program initiatives that produced measurable results. Sharing your ideas — and your successes — with your network is a great way to build a bigger following and attract the attention of recruiters. Even if you are not actively looking for a job, that sort of global recognition could play important dividends in helping you get a job that is career and financially defining for the balance of your life.
Today we are only scratching the surface. As you develop your digital strategy skills, and as developers create new techniques for social media platforms to help you promote your career, this approach to managing your career and looking for a job will be absolutely indispensable.
© 2020 John Gregory Self