Social media and the senior executive job search
Living in today’s technology-based Internet society means that unless you’re scrupulous about erasing your every move in the digital ether, you have a digital footprint. Ensuring that that presence is meaningful and more than just a tick-box or accidental ‘being there’ creates an invaluable asset in your senior level job search.
Jim Claussen, founder of the Executive Social Academy which helps managers and business leaders thrive in the digital economy, identifies engaging in social media as key to securing a senior position:
“…being findable, being intentional about what you are known for, and being intentional about building and nurturing a robust digital network is the most effective way to attract opportunity, build advocates and create the serendipitous interactions that will lead to a next career role.”
Social media success is about much more than knowing your way around various technologies and channels: publishing on LinkedIn, blogging and tweeting. It boils down to building relationships – fulfilling that human need to connect. And it’s expressed in how you engage with whatever platforms best reach your target audiences; from interacting with your peers in your particular marketplace or sector, to attracting the attention of the media and influencers.
If you’re taking an active role curating content, sharing, commenting and conversing, you’re enhancing your credibility within the networks you’re cultivating. If you’re helping shape the debate and leading conversations, your networks are doing some of that work for you – you’re gaining a reputation for being someone worth listening to – a thought leader.
But attaining a degree of social standing doesn’t happen overnight. Unless you’re already leveraging a significant amount of celebrity capital you can’t expect to burst onto the scene fully fledged. You need to do your research, identify your audiences and issues. You need to give before you can expect to receive, engaging with, amplifying and supporting others. And you need to recognise that it takes time to build your social profile and gain traction within your network.
For Claussen, the key is making that first step, putting yourself out there:
“Don’t go into social, grow into social. Start small, start simple, and build momentum.”
If you start with being clear about your purpose – why you’re on social – something more than the default “because I should be,” you’ll find that that momentum, its benefits and the sheer feel-good factor that comes from being part of a community, will build faster.
Distilling that purpose starts with knowing yourself. And conversely, recognising that it’s not all about you. It’s about creating something that’s often referred to as a personal brand, something that will bring the greatest benefits to you when you arrive at it via understanding how you help or serve others.
Your personal brand
A good question to start with and to ask yourself repeatedly until you’ve dug deep into some form of first principles thinking is “why?”
Elon Musk, in an interview with fellow entrepreneur, Kevin Rose, puts it well:
“…it’s a kind of physics way of looking at the world. You boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say, “What are we sure is true?””
In defining yourself and the value you bring, you’re unlocking the power of your unique combination of experience, knowledge and perspective. Being clear about your “why” reveals why anyone should care or listen. It leaps the electric distance between people, giving your content emotional resonance and engaging hearts and minds.
Keep it real
Social is an excellent forum for allowing some of the real you to come through, to show people what it would be like meeting you and doing business with you, in real life. A personal angle is particularly powerful because it’s undeniably authentic and relatable. In the same way that the personal can be political, there’s no paradox in the personal also being universal, although balancing this with being professionally appropriate is, of course, key. Paraphrasing Sherwin Nuland (American surgeon and writer, and author of “How We Die”):
“The more personal you are willing to be…about the details of your own life, the more universal you are…”
David Ogilvy, widely regarded as the ‘Father of Advertising’ concurs:
“…the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come of the real experience of my life and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive.”
In these days of being encouraged to narrow your focus on a particular niche all the better to promote your expertise within it, it can seem almost contrary to suggest that another way of cultivating a more interesting viewpoint on social is to widen your scope.
Staying curious, open to learning and discovery in your own marketplace and beyond, can play a significant part in enhancing your social profile. Reading widely, for example, trying classic literature, and getting into the habit of making connections between the past and the present, fictional characters and market players can make your contributions more immediate and noteworthy.
The back and forth
Taking that time to broaden your knowledge and finding and revealing connections between your outside pursuits and professional interests gets you into the habit of operating in intelligence-gathering mode on social. Paying attention – to your marketplace, to trending issues, to your competition – is a great discipline. Social will reward you with context and background. And as well as gaining competitive advantage by looking and listening, you’ll also be getting to the nub of what social is: a conversation.
In leaving space for others to have their say, in responding in real-time, in supporting others’ activity you’re not just employing social as an old skool broadcast media platform. You’ve positioned yourself as someone who’s shown up and is taking part in this market square conversation reimagined for the 21st Century.