Social Media can be an immensely powerful professional networking tool when used properly. However, there are some important considerations to be aware of when leveraging these tools for career success.  

  1. All social media sites are not created equal. 

  2. How you use the tool is just as important as what tool you’re using. 

  3. Your network (and your reputation) matters. 

All Social Media Sites are Not Created Equal 

Most people are familiar with social networking sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc.) with which to keep up with the latest news, trends, hobbies, and general happenings surrounding friends and family. However, leveraged properly, the inherent capabilities of social media for professional networking are limitless. 

Perhaps the most well-known and relevant social media site for professional networking is LinkedIn. LinkedIn was developed first and foremost as a place in cyberspace for professionals to exchange career info. It contains a wealth of information most simply on who works where. As such, LinkedIn remains the preeminent social media site for professionals and career info/advancement, despite a host of other sites that range in usefulness, but to a far lesser extent. 

How You Use the Tool Is Just as Important as What Tool You’re Using 

As mentioned earlier, one of the most beneficial aspects of LinkedIn for aspiring job seekers is that it provides names and job titles of professionals at numerous organizations throughout the world. Why is this critically important for networkers? One primary reason is that companies call similar, or even the same jobs, different names. For example, Microsoft might call a software sales role “Sr. Solutions Sales Representative” while Google may call that same job an “Account Executive” and Oracle would refer to it as “Account Manager.”So, when searching for the same type of sales position at three different companies, job seekers must keep track of each of these terms carefully in order to determine whether the job is a skills match when searching through potentially dozens or even hundreds of job postings.  

Networking Pro Tip #1: Search for Your Ideal Position by Finding a Person Already in That Role 

LinkedIn provides the major advantage of codifying all of the various roles and titles contained at each of these companies, as people within the network continually post/update their own individual job titles. Simply stated, a basic search for “Account Executive at Oracle” will return all of the people in the network who have that title within the organization. From there, it’s quite easy to find out what each person does by reading the most relevant profiles carefully. Don’t be afraid to contact people in your “dream job” and ask them if you can set up a brief conversation with them about how they attained the role. Logically, this is key to knowing what steps you will need to take in order to obtain a similar position. 

Networking Pro Tip #2: Find Out Who at the Organization Hires for These Roles 

As a former recruiter, I would use this method almost exclusively to find a particular hiring manager who works at a given company and then contact that person to present a candidate that I was representing, or to see if they might need help filling a difficult position within the organization. This worked immensely well and is still the primary method used by many recruiters, staffing industry professionals, and executive headhunters today. I strongly encourage students seeking new roles to be proactive and absolutely utilize this method to reach a hiring manager within their “dream organization.” Obviously, we must be professional and respectful in the process (see my final point below) but getting through to the actual hiring decision-maker is often the most difficult part of standing out among a sea of resumes, online profiles, and hidden gatekeepers.  

Your Network (and Your Reputation) Matters 

Finally, none of these strategies will have any measure of success unless social networkers can meet one important benchmark: having a large and trustworthy network. The strategies highlighted above do not work if you only have 10 people in your network or if those connections are largely comprised of fake or unused accounts. Therefore, it is critical to build out a reputable LinkedIn profile/network before you need to rely upon it.