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How to land your dream job in social media

How to land your dream job in social media Melonie Gallegos

Social media is a lucrative field for people who are just joining the job market, looking for a career change, or better yet, building on a long-standing career. While social media is still very new, it is now a pivotal aspect of every business. Everyone knows it's here, and we all need to participate in one way or another. It touches just about every aspect of a business from marketing to operations. Given this overlap, the big question is not simply how to build a career in social media, but how to incorporate social media into the career of your dreams. I will address both with tips for determining if social media is the right career for you, how to use social media to build any career, and how to leverage it on the job hunt.

How to land your dream job in social media

Just a few years ago, hiring a full-time social media person was unheard of. Today, companies are building full-on social media departments within their corporate structure. These teams can range from one person to more than ten people. They can also incorporate editorial managers, bloggers, designers, social "media planners" who manage paid advertising, community managers, and coordinators. While large companies can afford the dedicated expenditure, most cannot, and this is why many choose to outsource to agencies or contractors. This can save the cost of a permanent full-time employee and elevate the level of expertise through people who specialize in the practice. Before you dive into a social media career, do some exploration to find your niche and determine if it's right for you.

Is a career in social media right for you?

If you've considered working in social media, it's critical that you assess whether this is the right type of job for you. Here are the questions I ask when I am looking to hire someone for my agency.

  • Do you use social media personally?

  • Are you on, or have you tried out, just about every social network one could list?

  • Do you have a real marketing (or insert career position) background in addition to your social media experience?

  • Have you managed social media for a brand?

  • Are you an early adopter and unafraid to try new technologies?

  • Are you a good writer?

  • Do you understand how the internet works, how websites are built, and technology in general?

  • Most importantly, do you have fun doing it?

  • Are you an extrovert online? (You might be an introvert in real life and that's OK.)

  • Are you creative and strategic, but detailed in how you'll make it work?

  • Do you own a smartphone? That you can never put down.

While these questions might sound a little off base from the typical HR interview, these attributes are the makings of a true social media person. It takes a person with a dynamic personality, who is a clear communicator and a relationship builder. It also takes someone who uses it in his or her own life and who has the talent to transition what they learn to business use. If you are a person who feels annoyed by those who are constantly on their smartphones, you unplug the second you leave the office, or you hate Facebook, you might want to consider a different career. It takes one to know one. And you will never understand the intricacies of how a brand would use social media successfully to connect with people if you are not active on social media yourself. Drink your own Kool-Aid.

One more caveat. It's pretty clear in the statistics that there is a generation gap in age groups who tend to use social media more than others. Most of us have seen this played out in real life when Aunt Betsy asks your six-year-old to teach her how to use her fancy new phone to look at Facebook pictures. This has brought about an urban myth that the best social media career people are in their twenties. I am here to tell you as a professional working in the industry, you do not need to be in your twenties to work in this field. In fact, just the opposite is true. It is a new practice, but this does not take away from the fact that you need real working experience in marketing, customer support, or "fill in the blank," to be a rock star employee. Putting a twenty-year-old in a supervisory position to head up the front lines of your brand because "they use the Facebook" is a risky proposition. With age comes experience, as is the case for any job. There are brilliant people of all ages doing an amazing job. Find your niche, and you'll be among them.

How to further any career using social media

The job market surely is changing. Technology, the internet, and mobile have changed the way we live and work. This can create elation or fear, as some people struggle not to become irrelevant in their industry or company. If you are like me and consider yourself a lifelong student, you are always finding ways to elevate what you do with the latest tools and processes. When it comes to incorporating social media, it comes down to letting go of outdated tools and processes. Consider that social media is a communication channel. Like television, it is used for broadcasting, and like email, it is used for interpersonal communications. The additional layer it provides is networking. Whether you're a research scientist or a real estate agent, here are 10 ways you can incorporate a social layer to any job.

  • Become an authority by blogging about topics in which you have expertise, engaging in industry conversations, and giving advice.

  • Be discovered by creating optimized social media profiles. Great networks for business are LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Some people also like using Facebook for broad networking, but it must be a conscious decision that will require you to carefully separate very personal content from your public updates.

  • Meet new people in your industry through social networking on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Quora.

  • Listen to public conversations in social media to gather research or crowdsource information.

  • Build community around your customers, the problem your product seeks to solve, or a higher purpose.

  • Incorporate social media as another communication channel in addition to email and phone.

  • Use private social media groups on LinkedIn or Facebook as a company or team collaboration space.

  • Stalk social media to learn about your sales lead's interests and build relationships.

  • Try out Google+ Hangouts for company, industry, or customer collaboration and teaching.

  • Learn, learn, learn. It doesn't matter what field you work in, social networking is the place to connect with smart people in your industry, receive curated articles, and discover what's new in your industry in real time.

Are you in the beginnings of building a new career? Here are four things you can do right now using social media to increase your prospects as you transition out of college to the workforce. Read on to learn a dozen ways to land your social media dream job -- no matter what your career level.

A dozen ways to land your social media dream job

If you've decided that a social media job is for you, then it's a good time to harness your talents to land that dream job. Here are 12 tips to get you closer to it.

  • Be the professional you want to become. Clean up your social profiles and update your privacy settings. Share meaningful content to show off your authority.

  • Update your bios to say that you are available for hire. Unless it's a super secret move, of course.

  • Google yourself and see what comes up. According to BrandYourself.com, while 80 percent of those surveyed said they Googled themselves and others, only 47 percent liked what they saw about themselves.

  • Search for social media jobs in (where else?) social media! Join relevant job groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.

  • Create a website for yourself containing your bio, resume, links to your social profiles, work samples, articles, or speaking engagements. Use your searchable name, first and last, in the domain name so it shows up in Google searches.

  • Farm your network for referrals to companies who are hiring. Chances are someone you know knows someone you want to know. Do not overlook anyone.

  • Connect with everyone you know personally, casually, or in business on LinkedIn. Then, ask them for introductions to people you want to work for. (Credit for this tip goes to LinkedIn pro Stacy Zapar.)

  • Network with people in your industry, or people whom you want to work with, on Twitter.

  • Follow companies' HR departments on Twitter; they post openings there.

  • Include your social media profiles on your resume contact information, including your blog URL, Twitter handle, and LinkedIn. Remember to link them up.

  • Connect with the hiring manager in the social networks to get yourself on their radar. LinkedIn is a good place to start since its member base is made up of decision-makers and recruiters.

  • Join Social Media Club or other professional organizations in your local area.

Anyone can leverage the power of social media to find a job of any kind. According to JobVite, one in six job seekers found their position through social media. Get more in depth tips in my social media for jobs series on my blog.

Social media creates enormous opportunities for job seekers and people looking to expand their careers. You do not have to be a social media expert to boost your persona and land a nice gig. Start out slow, master one network at a time, and find your niche. We are all in a never-ending cycle of education, so don't be afraid to take risks and get creative.

Melonie Gallegos is the principal and chief social strategist of Fandom Marketing.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Thinking woman with many ideas" image and "Social media, communication" image via Shutterstock.

Melonie Gallegos draws on over a decade of digital marketing experience to create integrated social media strategies. Over the years she has worked with a vast portfolio of CPG and B2B companies and for top-tier digital advertising agencies. She...

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