Are you using social media to improve your job search? The importance of a professional online identity continues to grow. Employers will find you on the Internet, are you reaching out to them while job hunting? Law students and young lawyers who haven’t started marketing yourselves online: this post is for you.
Your online profiles may provide your future employer’s first impression. Create a professional identity online by making professional contacts with people doing what you want to do. If you want to be a defense attorney, read and comment on defense attorneys’ blogs. If you want to work in legal aid, follow the many legal aid organizations on Twitter. If you are considering academia, get to know law librarians, faculty and law school support staff online.
Network on the networks
Start with LinkedIn. (See Leora Maccabees’s post on how law students should use LinkedIn.) Find a few people who you’ve heard of in your area of interest. Follow them and see who they follow, friend and write about online. Hoping for a BigLaw life? Several large law firms have blogs. Start connecting with those connections. Your network can build very quickly this way and can enhance your credibility online.
Don’t be shy
Follow prospective employers on Twitter, friend them on Facebook. Find practitioners who are blogging and read what they write. But reading isn’t enough, you have to engage. Engagement is the heart of social media success, whether you’re selling aftershave or expanding your job search.
If someone enables comments on her blog, then she wants to hear your comments! Don’t be afraid of sounding ignorant and don’t hide your status as a student – most practitioners are encouraged by your interest and will respond positively as soon as you reach out. The nature of social networks enables quick and easy connection among all types of people.
If your online job hunting leads you to engage experts or potential employers in your field, be sure to read up on the issues (as well as the places you are thinking might be good places to work). Try setting up a Google Alert for keywords based on substantive law you like. Be careful to recognize what you do and don’t know. This will help bring relevance to your studies and show those in your online social network that you are serious about the subjects.
Be friendly, and be willing to share a little bit about yourself if others are doing the same. Getting to know your online contacts (beyond the basic résumé information) is an important part of discovering places and types of work where you will be the happiest and fit in the best.
Ask for help
Once you have interacted with someone enough online that you are confident they know something about you, your interests, and, importantly, your work ethic, ask them for leads on jobs in the field. You don’t have to ask “Will you hire me?”, but it never hurts to show your willingness to commit yourself. Just be sure you are honest with your intentions.
When you are networking online while job hunting, remember to always be courteous and professional. Consider using one account (Facebook, for instance) for family and friends, and another (LinkedIn or Twitter) for professional contacts. Always, always, think carefully before you post anything online—regardless of your intended audience—and keep matters of personal safety and security in mind.