By Peter Weddle -- Perhaps you’ve heard of him? His name is Jean Carlos Chera. He’s a soccer phenom who’s just 9 years old. Despite his age and the fact that he lives in a small town in Brazil, he’s been offered a contract by Manchester United, one of the elite teams of world soccer, and a number of other clubs are pursuing him, as well.
How did this happen? Well, Jean Carlos can do things with a soccer ball that even many adults only dream of. He would have simply been a local hero, however, and languished in obscurity (at least until he reached his teens) had it not been for the Internet. He exploded on the international soccer consciousness because a video of his play appeared on his team’s Web-site. There, it was seen by a reporter from an Argentine newspaper who wrote a story about it. That article, in turn, prompted some soccer fans to take a look at the video, and they then e-mailed it to their friends who passed it on to their friends, and before long, the video had circled the globe online. The rest, as they say, is history. Young Jean Carlos had been cherry-picked for fame and prosperity.
What can we learn from his experience? A simple, but profound truth. The Internet can make you and your talents visible to lots and lots of people, including the hiring managers and recruiters in your field. Of course, everyone already knows that. The problem is that most of us limit ourselves to but one demonstration of our capabilities: our resume. We post that document in the database at a job board or two, and think we’re done. With our resume online, we’ll stand out just like Chera, and job offers will soon be flooding into our e-mailboxes.
Ah, if only it were that simple. The problem, you see, is that there are a huge number of resumes on the Web so it’s difficult for any one resume—yours, for example—to stand out. Additionally, recruiters have to dig around in a job board’s resume database to find your record, and in some, perhaps many cases, their search skills are not all that they should be. As a result, they overlook your resume and fail to contact you for a position even if you are clearly qualified to perform it.
So, how can you make sure you get noticed online? There are at least two steps you can take that will both differentiate you from the herd and enable you to showcase your talents.
Listservs and bulletin boards. You can find these discussion forums at a growing number of job boards and sites run by alumni organizations, professional associations and affinity groups. They enable you to “strut your stuff” by engaging in a dialogue with your peers. Your messages will not only be read by those who are participating in the dialogue, but by recruiters who lurk in these areas looking for talented prospects. You will probably have to register at the job board and/or join the association to participate in the exchange, but that’s a small price to pay to have the verbal equivalent of Chera’s soccer tape out there for the whole world to see.
Rules for Success
If you decide to participate in an online discussion forum, follow these rules to ensure that it actually helps your career:
1. Fit in. Each forum and bulletin board has its own culture and rules (e.g., how they handle disagreements, how formal or informal their messages are), and you must be respectful of both if you want to be welcomed and allowed to participate.
2. Participate regularly. The only way a listserv can help you is if you are actually contributing to it. You never know when a recruiter is going to be watching, so you must showcase yourself frequently—I recommend two sessions a week—if you want to be seen.
3. Add something worthwhile. You don’t have to spend a lot of time during each visit to the group—I recommend no more than 30 minutes per visit—but you must stick around long enough to be noticed and make a contribution. Showcasing your talent is not showboating, so make sure your input is relevant, timely and advances the group’s discussion.
Blogs—individual “Web logs” or diaries. A blog is a personal podium in cyberspace. There are blogs written by policy wonks of all stripes, as well as by soldiers in Iraq, single mothers in Boise, college students at Stanford, out-of-work middle managers in New York City and just about every other representative of the human condition. Unlike a discussion forum, a blog is a running commentary that you create and sustain. You can encourage others to comment on your views and offer their own opinions, but the podium is all yours. It is your opportunity to opine on subjects that are important to you. While you can certainly write about your hobby or vacation, a blog is only helpful to your career if you use it to demonstrate your expertise in your profession, craft or trade. As they do with discussion forums, recruiters read blogs to find top talent. They use Google and other sites to search through the content at blogs and identify people whose commentary illustrates expertise appropriate for an opening they are trying to fill.
Rules for Success
If you decide to write a blog, follow these rules to ensure that it actually helps your career:
1. Don’t rant. A career blog is not the place to vent your spleen about the cost of prescription drugs or how unfair your speeding ticket was. It is a platform for showcasing your skills and knowledge in your field of work, so confine yourself to topics that will do that.
2. Communicate like a professional. It may be all yours and it may be personal, but if you want to impress a recruiter, make sure you edit your entries and proofread them carefully. You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so take the time to be at your best.
3. Say something worthwhile. A blog is not a place to rehash your resume. Recruiters are looking for distinctive performers, so use your commentary to excel in your field, to offer your ideas about how best to address a particular challenge or to accomplish a task that is often done poorly.
Shakespeare said “all the world’s a stage,” and he was right—in his time and in ours. Thanks to the Internet, we can now offer performances that recruiters in our hometown and around the world can see. Done well, they can be the opening act for what’s next in our career.
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