OK, I admit it.  I’m a sports nut.  One of the first things I do in the morning is peruse my favorite sports web sites reviewing scores and looking for breaking news about my favorite teams.  I also like to read the game-by-game odds on who the experts are predicting to win and by how much.  Being the sentimental guy that I am, I always find myself rooting for the underdog. Occasionally, I am rewarded for taking in a “David vs. Goliath” match up as a team that was predicted to get clobbered will rise up and win the game outright.

Be the Favorite, Not the Long Shot in the Job Search

However, when it comes to the job search, being the underdog is rarely a winning proposition.  If we were to head to Las Vegas to place a one dollar wager on YOU winning a job via a posting on a major internet job board, we would probably be offered odds in the 200-1 range.  That means for every one job seeker that applies to a posting on a major job board site then successfully navigates the interview process and is ultimately offered the position, 200 other job seekers are winning their jobs via other methods.  With competition for the best jobs at an all-time high, job seekers today need to employ new tools and strategies for gaining notice and getting hired.

What is Social Media?

One of the most powerful and effective new techniques for uncovering opportunities in today’s ultra-challenging job market is social media. Social media is a communication instrument (media), like a newspaper or a radio, with a social element. In year 2010 web-speak, this would be a web site that doesn’t just give you information, but interacts with you while giving you that information.

There are currently hundreds of social media sites garnering the majority of the web traffic.  While some of these sites fulfill specific needs like keeping in touch with college or high school friends, describing your latest rock climbing adventure, or even showing a video of Scruffy the dog climbing a tree, others cater more to business owners and professionals and can be especially helpful in building a job seeker’s brand and positioning them as an expert at what they do.

Twitter and LinkedIn are the BEST Social Media Sites for Job Seekers

Twitter is a free social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers. Twitter can be used two ways in assisting job seekers.

1-     Use Twitter to Build Your Brand: The job today goes to the specialist not the generalist.  In addition, companies are looking for people who can come in, hit the ground running, and fulfill a special set of requirements to solve specific problems.  Thus, companies today are looking for experts as opposed to jack-of-all-trades types.  By sending out regular tweets offering advice about your particular industry or occupation, you are positioning yourself as the expert companies are looking for.

2-     Follow Target Companies, Recruiters, and Other Industry Experts on Twitter:  In today’s highly competitive job market, being first in line when applying for a position is highly advantageous.  Companies and many recruitment firms and staffing agencies are using Twitter to tweet about new openings they are looking to hire for. Being the early bird that catches the worm just might be your ticket to winning an interview. Following certain industry experts will also allow you to keep up with breaking news and current trends regarding your trade.

3- TweetMyJobs.com is an excellent web site for honing in on jobs by location and key vertical.  You can even have new postings sent to your cell or smart phone as soon as they are posted.

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site and is mainly used for professional networking. As of October 2009, LinkedIn had more than 50 million registered users, spanning more than 200 countries worldwide.  Users of LinkedIn can build a network of solid professional contacts, conduct company research, investigate key decision makers within organizations, and search jobs.  Here are some tips for job seekers when using LinkedIn:

1-     Write a detailed Summary focusing on your number one brand and positioning yourself as an expert in a particular occupation/industry as opposed to looking like someone who is unemployed and wants a job.  Your LinkedIn account should act as your personal “corporate web site” validating and promoting your brand.

2-     Invite and accept invites from only high quality contacts that you trust.

3-     Do not take an “arms race” approach to building your contacts list. Your contacts should be people with whom you’ve done business and can trust.  More is not necessarily better on LinkedIn.

Here is an excellent “LinkedIn 101” video: http://tinyurl.com/ya9qyfe

Employing a social media strategy to your overall job search plan is simply smart business.  You need to use the same tools employers are using to find candidates and keep yourself on the cutting edge of how business professionals interact.  With more than 80 percent of all available positions going unadvertised, a job seeker today needs a sound plan for uncovering the hidden job market, staying marketable, reaching out to potential decision makers, and keeping up on the latest industry trends.

As you embark on the job search, don’t play the role of the 200-1 long shot. Sure, cheering for the underdog is always fun, but when it comes to your profession, believe in your skills and expertise and employ the techniques that will offer you the best return on your job search ROI.  Always position yourself as the odds-on favorite to win the job!

Donald J. Strankowski is founder and president of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a career training and professional development firm for businesses, professionals and executives.  He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted via email at [email protected], or on the web at www.AscendCareers.net

Check out Don’s new book available now on Amazon.com!