By Dave Willmer
I've been using Facebook in my job hunt more and more. Are there steps I can take to make sure my profile helps in my efforts and attracts the attention of hiring managers or new networking contacts?
Dave Willmer responds:
The professional profile - the brief bio used on networking Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter - has evolved into a fundamental tool for self-marketing. While your profile shouldn't replace your resume or cover letter, it can mean the difference between being passed over and being invited for an interview.
It sounds like you've already posted a profile on at least a couple of professional or social networking sites. However, profiles are often created on the fly for immediate posting on a Web site, or in an e-mail to a networking contact or prospective employer. As a result, they sometimes fail to provide a clear picture of the skills you want to highlight. Spending a little time strategically crafting your profile will significantly enhance your job-seeking prospects.
A Profile for Every Purpose
Start by spending some time on networking sites to find profiles that paint a clear picture of a person's professional assets. You'll also likely find many profiles that demonstrate what to avoid - for example, profiles that are too long or fail to highlight the person's most relevant skills and achievements.
You'll need versions of various lengths and styles to fit a growing number of purposes. For example, you may want to e-mail one version to a member of your network who might be able to provide a referral. Or you might use some of the wording from your profile in a follow-up e-mail after an interview as a means of quickly recapping your qualifications.
Start by creating a "master" profile - the longest, fullest depiction of your experience and skills. A three- or four-paragraph statement should be sufficient. If you don't have a current profile, draw from your most recent cover letters and resumes.
Discovering Your Core Message
Next, work like a sculptor to chip away less essential elements of your profile, creating several increasingly short versions. (Some networking sites may call for no more than one or two sentences.) When you're finished, you'll be ready to quickly provide an appropriate profile for any new situation or opportunity that arises, rather than having to start over each time. This ensures that every profile you post or share conveys a consistent core message. If you're currently unsure about exactly what that message should be, the process of distilling your profile down to your most fundamental qualities and achievements will help you do so.
Whether you're updating an existing profile or creating a new one from scratch, here are some more tips to help you maximize its effectiveness.
- Keep it short. Your profile's brevity should make it easily accessible and user friendly, improving the odds that it will be read, rather than glanced at. A profile doesn't have to recount your entire professional history or connect the dots of your career trajectory.
Focus tightly. Emphasize what is most noteworthy about you as an IT professional. This may mean that you mention only the last few positions you've held, for instance, or even just your most recent one. Also, touch on your most significant selling points, whether it's a certification you recently earned or a description of how you helped your last employer reduce costs.
Think like a hiring manager. Be sure to write your profile with a prospective employer's problems or goals in mind. Be as specific as possible about the benefits you've delivered - for example, by citing a development process you helped to shorten by six weeks, or an application you built that saved a company $50,000 per year.
Show some personality. When you have space, consider including brief details about your background or personal interests, assuming this information helps to further differentiate you or present you in a positive light.
Keep it fresh. Don't let your master profile - or the various versions you draw from it - get stale. One benefit of online profiles is that they can be changed easily. Review all the versions of your profile regularly to make sure they continue to illustrate your most marketable skills. It may help to maintain a simple spreadsheet noting all the places your profile appears, as well as the date of the most recent update.
A well-crafted professional profile is an essential tool not only for your job search but also for the long-term health of your career. You'll be better able to respond to opportunities as they arise and attract possibilities you may not have even considered.Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.