Read my recent interview on SeniorMilitaryTransition.com:
Throughout your military career, you stood alongside your fellow soldiers or shipmates, in a sea of uniforms of the same color and design. While you may have been singled out along the way to receive special awards or medals, your daily goal was not necessarily to stand out from the crowd.
As you transition into the civilian workforce and face a highly competitive job search environment, this reality is turned on its head. According to Joshua Waldman, author and one of the nation’s top authorities in social media career advancement, it is only those who ethically and comfortably stand out from the crowd who will rise to the top of the candidate pool for that next great job.
VSB: Job-seekers in this tough economic climate can’t afford to rely on just one job search tool to land that next great position. What advice would you give to senior military leaders entering the civilian workforce who may not have searched for a job in over 20 years?
Waldman: When I first came home from living abroad for three years, the hardest thing was coming back to a place I thought I knew but in reality had changed. For example, I landed in NYC to visit some relatives in the city. On the bus, I saw someone talking to himself. He was making a doctors appointment to the air. “He doesn’t look crazy”, I thought. Later that day, I learned what a bluetooth was! In the same way, people coming back to the world of job search after years of being away from it will experience a kind of reverse culture shock. Resumes are different. Job boards are less effective. Recruiters are asking different questions.
What I would tell someone re-entering the job hunt is this: accept that you will need to look for your next job in a totally new way. This new way will be uncomfortable at first. But soon, as you begin to use and understand social media, you will see that your networking skills, organization skills and ability to perform well under fire will help you separate yourself from the competition.
VSB: Many military members have come to recognize the importance of being on LinkedIn. What is the best way to make use of that resource beyond simply opening an account and posting a resume?
Waldman: Well, first off, you should never just copy and paste your resume into your LinkedIn profile. People read resumes very differently than they read online profiles. Also, with a profile, your audience will also include search engines. And search engines need to be fed nouns, not just fancy power verbs. Yes, there needs to be consistency between your resume and profile, but they are NOT the same thing. Your profile will need keywords and can be shorter in the descriptions.
Ok, now that I’ve got that said, beyond just having a 100% complete profile, there are some new features that you should take advantage of. As military leaders, having one organization (USO) in your profile for years and years could get boring without a lot of room to really demonstrate all of the amazing things you’ve been able to do. Thankfully, LinkedIn has introduced a new Projects area, a Skills area, Publications and Certifications, including clearances. With these profile enhancements you can really start to demonstrate why you are the ideal candidate for the role. Civilians also going for that same job will not be able to fill those sections out the same way you will.
My final thought on this is that success with LinkedIn is not just about having a pretty profile. It’s all about networking, expanding your network in the areas that you want to develop, into the companies you want to work. Begin with a company search and identify ten companies in your area. Then simply inMail or connect with employees of that company who might provide you with good intel.
VSB: Do you see any down-sides to using social media as a job resource? What are the risks that can be avoided?
Waldman: The biggest risk is not having a consistent personal brand. Hiring managers and recruiters will look for inconsistencies about you. If they find something that just doesn’t feel right, they may pass you over. Many people simply jump online and start filling out profiles without a plan of attack first. Your personal brand is a plan of attack. Make decisions about how you will position yourself, talk about yourself, display yourself before you do anything. Failing to do this could meet a much longer job search. There are plenty of personal branding books available to help you in this process.
VSB: You have provided some very helpful pointers in your book “Job Searching With Social Media for Dummies;” what are the top 2-3 messages you want people to remember from your publication?
- First, you absolutely must get good at using social media. It is the number one skill for winning both the job search as well as in your career. There are enough statistics to show that most companies rely on social, and some rely on social almost exclusively.
- Second, before jumping into the pool, dip your toes. Figure out your personal positioning. Who are you? What motivates you? What problems do you solve at your target companies? Answering these questions first will make your use of social media more effective.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to be bold. Companies are looking for employees who know how to be flexible and navigate change. Just by embracing social media, you demonstrate that you are agile and open to change. Then, when you use social media boldly and with integrity, you really stand out. You’re not just easier to find, you become the obvious next choice for any job you want.