We know that looking for a new job can sometimes feel like a job in itself. While it’s a great opportunity to broaden your professional horizons, it can also be a little daunting to make sure you’ve got all of the bases covered during your job search.

It’s all about who you know

Traditionally, having access to the pick of the jobs has relied on the relationships you’ve developed with recruiters and contacts in your industry. In this digital age, the importance of your professional network remains, but the way that you can manage it has changed. Gone are the days of keeping a little book of business cards to be consulted in times of need. Access to social media tools means that your network can be managed, maintained and grown in a less time-consuming but more effective way than before – even when you’re not actively looking for a new role.

Staying connected

Most of us use social networking sites to stay in touch with friends and family. According to research undertaken by MWEB released early in 2010, 82% of South Africans use Facebook as their social network of choice. While Facebook and other applications like MXit and Twitter are still largely social in nature, there are online networking tools geared towards the professional community.  If it’s simple enough to share photos with your friends, it’s simple enough to develop a professional network online that will set you up for success during your job search.

Build your online network

Many recruiters and industry professionals use LinkedIn as a way to network, stay in touch and share business related ideas and advice. According to the organisation, there are over 1 million South Africans using LinkedIn (as of May 2011), and globally membership is growing an average of 70% year-on-year.

But every industry is different so do a little research to find out where the recruiters in your sector operate, and create yourself an online presence and start building your network.  A good starting point is to search for recruitment contacts within your industry, and get in touch to introduce yourself.

Complete your profile

This may be something you’ve had a go at previously without much luck, but a little bit of effort initially will pay off in the long run.  The trick is to ensure that your profile is as complete as possible, so that when you contact recruiters in your industry they can understand a little more about you, and give you an honest appraisal if they can help with your job search.

Equally, having an up-to-date profile helps when you’re passively open to exploring new opportunities. It means that recruiters can get in touch with you if your profile matches a role that they’re hiring for – a great way of keeping informed of opportunities and developments in the market without having to actively search for jobs.

Get yourself noticed

To get yourself noticed online, these are the following steps you should take to ensure that your profile is ready for your job search:

  • Include a photo that is appropriate in a professional context.

  • Complete as much information as possible about your current role and recent job history, including achievements and where you were able to add value.

  • Detail your education history, particularly any awards that you won that are still relevant.

  • Ask for recommendations from clients and line managers to publicly endorse the good work that you do. Think quality, not quantity – a couple of recommendations from a satisfied client are far more valuable than several endorsements from the colleagues you eat lunch with.

  • If there are forums or message boards within your professional networking site of choice, ensure that you contribute where appropriate so that you are viewed as an expert within your field.

It’s your skills that count too

While online professional networking is never going to replace the fundamental steps involved in getting yourself a new role, it’s definitely something that can make the whole process a little easier.  Before you embark on connecting online, make sure that your CV is up-to-date and ready to be presented to recruiters and hiring managers. Be honest about the persona you’re presenting online – it maybe tempting to wow recruiters with your achievements and accolades, but if they’re not entirely truthful you can end up in a sticky situation in the long run.

Landing your ideal role is still about the skills and track record you have, how you interview and the cultural fit for a new organisation. But often, having the opportunity to consider a new role is all about who you know, so use online networks to reinforce existing industry relationships, build new ones and get yourself noticed.

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