Your Guide to Job Search and Personal Branding on Twitter

Twitter--the 140 character social networking site--is becoming increasingly useful for job seekers. It doesn't work for everyone, of course, but it can certainly turbo-charge your networking, a key strategy for successful job hunting. It can also be an effective part of your personal branding campaign.

Here, then, is a (somewhat) definitive link guide to getting a new job (or losing your current one) through Tweeting. (I put this together for a client, so thought it would be nice to share).

Getting Started on Twitter--If you're new to Twitter. . .

Twitter Skills & Culture--You'd think it would be easy to type 140 characters and go, but like all social networks, Twitter has a culture that requires some skill to navigate. Ignore this section at your own risk.

Pimp Your Profile--Think of your Twitter profile as your "digital interview suit." First impressions count.

Twitter for Job Search--The nitty gritty of job searching on Twitter.

People and Sites to Follow

Job Search Tips and Tools

Case Studies

Twitter Brand Building--The Twitter job search is also about building your online brand.

Twitter Fails--Twitter isn't rocket science. These mistakes can be avoided with a little forethought.


Career Commons is Open for Business

Career commons 2
Per my post on Friday, I've now set up the Career Commons community on Ning. I've seeded it with some initial content, but hope that if/when the community builds, more will be added.

I've also scheduled our first informal webinar for February 9, 2009 at 12 noon (EST).

Please note that the webinar will be limited to the first 15 people who RSVP, so please go here and let me know if you plan to attend. We'll be using Go-To-Meeting, so once you RSVP, I'll send you the log-in info. Note that with Go-to-Meeting you'll be able to either use your phone or your computer and headset for the audio portion.

I've already had some great response through comments and email. Please feel free to continue spreading the word if you know of anyone who might be interested in participating.


Free Online Job Club--Need Your Help!

Here's the deal. Unlike a lot of people in this economy, I'm very fortunate right now to have a stable consulting practice that actually looks like it will improve when the stimulus package goes through because of the nature of much of the work I do. And honestly, I feel a little guilty about this. I see how many people are struggling and, while I feel incredibly lucky that things are going well for me, I also feel like it's incredibly unfair that so many other people are NOT doing well. 

One of my areas of expertise and actually what most of my consulting practice is about is career development and job search. Most of my customers are government and nonprofit agencies who have me work with them to design programs that will help get people to work and climb the career ladder. I also teach their staff how to facilitate career development and job search activities. 

It occurred to me this morning that one small way I can potentially help in the downturn is by creating a free, online job club where people could connect to one another, we could deal with some of the issues that you face when you're out of work (including the emotional blow to the self-esteem) and you could get some feedback, information and resources on career and job search related questions. I want to do this in two ways.

Bamboo Job Club Network
I'm setting up a Ning network that can serve as an online resource and hub for job seekers to connect with one another. One of the things that is the hardest about being out of work is the isolation. Through my years of work in this field, I've seen that people feel a combination of shame, despair and anxiety when they lose their jobs and there's a strong need to connect with other people who "get" what they're going through. Often it's helpful if they can find people who are outside of their normal networks because it's safer to share some of their concerns with relative strangers.

I'm hoping that through the Ning network, if people want to connect, share their stories, get advice from one another, etc. they are able to do this. I will also include links to all the resources and information I have related to career and job search and will certainly do what I can to help facilitate discussions. 

Weekly Webinars
The other thing I want to try is weekly webinars. I have Go-to-Meeting, which allows me to do online meetings with up to 15 people. My thought on this is to post the date for the webinar and then invite people to sign up, first come, first served.

The webinars will be informal--people can send in questions/issues they want to discuss ahead of time so I can be somewhat prepared, and then we'll take an hour to talk, share resources, etc. If there's enough interest, we can then look at doing more "formal" programming if necessary. The webinars would be a way to extend connections from the network and/or be an alternative for people who would prefer to just participate in a call.

Both of these will be FREE. I want to give something back and this is an area where I think I can help. I'll be honest that I also miss direct contact with job seekers and the feeling that I'm actually making a difference, so this will give me an opportunity to get my "fix."

I Need Your Help!

What I need from you is to spread the word.  Let people know about this idea and if they are interested, have them email me at bamboojobclub@gmail.com. That way I can  let them know when I've set up the Ning network and scheduled the first few webinars, which I hope to do within the next week or so. This will also help me see if I need to enlist the help of some other people on this. There's potentially a HUGE need and I can see that I could quickly get overwhelmed if it got too big too fast.

I could also use your advice and suggestions, so feel free to leave them in comments.

And if you're interested in participating as a facilitator, either in the Ning or by participating as a "content expert" in a webinar, please let me know, again in comments or by email.

Let's see where all of this goes. . .


Can't Talk Right Now. I'm Blogging

Tony Karrer has been talking about why you need to blog. I've tried to encourage it too.  Now Penelope Trunk says it's the best thing you can do for your career.

One of the best ways to make a big leap in your career is to blog. Blogging allows you to create a high-quality network for yourself based, not on the old model of passing out business cards, but on a new model of passing out ideas.

Don't believe it? Says Penelope:

Minh Luong wanted a career in food writing, but found breaking into the industry was very tough. Instead of waiting to find an offline connection and nurture it and wait for the right opportunity and then make her move, Luong opted for taking more direct initiative to create the life she wants: She started blogging.

Almost immediately, her blog, Minnie Eat World, became a local Boston favorite, and the credibility she gained by blogging led to offline offers for work she would not have had access to had she not built a quick network for herself via blogging. The blog has replaced not only paying one’s dues, but also the network that comes from that.

Will you do it now?  Penelope has some good ideas for making it doable, including participating in group blogs. Come on. Give it a try.


Some Questions and Thoughts About EPortfolios

I'm working through the concepts and implications of ePortfolios for both learning and career/professional development. Some questions and thoughts that are emerging for me. . . (note--this is very raw)

Purpose
ePortfolios can serve a number of purposes. They can be used as a record of learning, for job searching, for personal and professional development, as a way to manage your online identity.

Many of the issues below are influenced by the purpose of the ePortfolio. If it's being used primarily as a way to record learning, then that will influence what you include in the portfolio, its format, the tools you use, etc. Clearly it's critical to first be clear about WHY you're setting up and maintaining an ePortfolio.

The concept of using an ePortfolio to manage your online identity is particularly interesting to me. In a world where we are increasingly turning first to Google to get information on a person, it seems that managing our online identity is becoming more and more important. How to do that is the question. When I Google "Michele Martin," my blog is the third entry that comes up, with my bio as a sub-entry. So even if I have an ePortfolio, my blog will supersede it as the "real" portfolio of my work--which has interesting implications of its own.

Some people argue that an ePortfolio is unnecessary--that your blog IS your portfolio--that an online journal is more authentic than a more "static" portfolio presence. Maybe this is true, especially when I factor Google into the process.

Ownership
Who owns your ePortfolio? Is it yours? If you set up your portfolio while you're in school or while you're working for a particular organization and you use a proprietary system, then in some sense it doesn't belong to you. My personal belief is that we should use more open, flexible systems to maintain a portfolio and that the portfolio should belong to the person. But organizations--particularly of the "command and control" type will want to "own" the portfolio as their way of trying to "own" what's included.

Privacy

Related to ownership--who should have access to your portfolio? Access would determine to some extent the content you want to include. Privacy issues also relate to purpose. If you're using it primarily for job search, then you don't want the ePortfolio to be a "private" document. It defeats the point. But if you're using it as a documentation of your personal learning progress, then maybe you do want to make it more private. But if you keep personal learning too private, then you lose the benefit of social learning that comes from having others see your thinking, comment on it, point you to other resources, etc.

When I first went online in 1995, I was much more wary of sharing my "real" identity. The Net was so new, we didn't know what could happen. Now, I find that I'm far more comfortable with sharing my "real self," and think that it's actually important for me to not hide behind anonymity. I'm forced to "own" what I say. And again, I can manage my own online identity by claiming it.

Content

What should be included in an ePortfolio. It goes back to purpose, obviously, and your comfort levels with privacy. Some of the things I wonder about including--should you include "work in progress" learning materials? If a potential employer or client sees this "raw" material, are they able to evaluate it as a sign of a lifelong learner or do they see you as less informed for asking questions and not always having the answers?

If I decide to share work in progress, at what point is it "ready"? I struggle with this particular question all the time, needing personally to tread the fine line between sharing process in order to get feedback, etc. for learning and refinement and not sharing too early when even I am not sure what I'm saying.

What about sharing my social bookmarks, social networks, etc.? Some ePorfolio users I've seen include links to their de.licio.us bookmarks, Flickr photos, and to the social networks to which they belong. Is this good? Is it too much information?  In one way we can make connections to other people because of these ideas. But does it become information overload? Does it reveal something we didn't want to reveal?

Many ePortfolios include audio, video, photos, etc. of the person maintaining the portfolio. I wonder about the impact this might have on job search in particular. There's a reason that employers aren't allowed to ask for photos from a potential applicant. Has our society progressed to a point where they can look at this information without prejudice? I don't think so. But if you don't include this type of information and others do, what does this do to your ability to compete in the job market?

Tools
What tools to use? There are a lot of Web 2.0 tools that lend themselves to use in developing an ePortfolio, most notably wikis and blogs. (Here I'm thinking of using blogging software as a tool to set up and maintain a portfolio, not in the traditional sense of maintaining an online journal). Which tools make the most sense to use? 

Format and Design

If your ePortfolio is for public consumption, then design becomes really important. Like it or not, we're all influenced by how something looks. Are we more attracted to this or this? Part of what influences tool selection, I think, will be design implications. In general, what you can create with blogging tools (or HTML, for that matter) is going to be "prettier" than what you see with wiki tools--at least for now. Yet in many ways, it's easier to work with wiki software to create an ePortfolio. So which  should win--design sensibility or ease of use for the person maintaining the portfolio?

Creativity vs. standardization

Should an ePortfolio be standardized or should we have complete freedom to create? This becomes more of an issue if a portfolio is being developed in conjunction with some institutional effort. Schools and organizations will want standardization, but does this really allow people to tell the whole story about themselves? If I have to fit into your preconceived notion of a template, will that mean that there's an incomplete picture of me through my ePortfolio?

This comes to mind for me when I look at Lillian's porfolio vs. viewing  Bernard's. Lillian created her portfolio with a lot of freedom. Bernard had to fit into an institutional framework. Although he tried to be creative within that framework, he wasn't able to create the same integrated site that Lillian was able to set up. Going back to design issues--Bernard's site isn't a holistic view of Bernard. It's the difference between an original work of art with all that it reveals about the person and seeing a picture that someone colored. There's only so far you can go in revealing yourself in a coloring book.

I tend to think that we should maximize opportunities for creativity. Each choice we make in all of the other areas above in some sense allows us to both understand something new about ourselves as well as reveal something to others. If the purposes of an ePortfolio include learning and professional development/job search, it seems that standardization will be too confining for both of those purposes. Even as  a potential employer, I'd be more interested in reviewing the portfolio of someone who had complete freedom to do their own thing. It will tell me far more about their interests, approaches, etc. But that's because I'm willing to do the thinking and analysis. Will everyone be willing to do that? No. So does that mean that we must inevitably move to standardization in order to deal with issues like discrimination, etc.?

In this process, I'm becoming even more aware of digital divide issues, particularly related to the kinds of customers my clients work with. We have a hard enough time helping people present themselves well through resumes, interviewing, etc. When (and I think it's only a matter of timing) ePortfolios become the standard, how does this put these people at an even greater disadvantage?

I'm trying to unpack and work through all of this as I work on my own ePortfolio, as well as think through how to work with others on the process. The more I delve into it, though, the more questions open up and the bigger the implications in many ways.


Using RSS (Netvibes) and a Wiki (PBWiki) to Support a Job Search

I wanted to share with you a project I've been working on demonstrating how to use RSS and Wikis to support a job search. Whether you're a nonprofit staff person who wants to use these tips for yourself or you're a nonprofit that helps other people in their job search, this could be a good resource for you. I think it could be particularly helpful if you work with clients who are always losing their paperwork, can't find their resumes, etc. Or maybe I'm describing you.

There are two major components to this project:

  • The Job Search Dashboard--I've taught job search techniques for many years, and one of the major issues I stress is the need to create for yourself an organized, one stop location for your job search materials. So what I wanted to create was basically an online Job Search dashboard where someone could see their job leads and other information in one location. This is where I used Netvibes and RSS.
  • An Online Porfolio and "Office"--The other key component I wanted was an online porfolio to maintain resumes, cover letters, links to good job search resources, work samples, etc. I used PBWiki for this piece.

Creating the Job Search Dashboard
The first thing I created was the Job Search Dashboard, for which I needed to use an RSS Feed Reader. Personally, I love Netvibes. The look and functionality is great and it was perfectly suited to this project where I wanted to create a "dashboard feel" to set things up. But technically I suppose you could use any reader.

Because I wanted to show a sample, I registered with Netvibes using a "fake" name. You can see what  I developed by going to Netvibes and clicking on the button to sign in. The username for the account is wantajobnow@yahoo.com and the password is getajob.

Top_of_screen

You'll see that Netvibes actually allows you to set up tabbed feeds. If I wanted, I could have a tab that's just for my job search, a tab that's for news and business and another that has all my favorite personal blogs, access to Flickr. etc. . This is another reason that using Netvibes really appealed to me.
Tabs_2

The first thing I needed to do was set up my feeds, so I started looking for job search sites that allow you to create an RSS for customized job searches. I decided to use nonprofit jobs as a sample, so I included feeds from Idealist.org  and other major job search sites. There is probably some overlap there, but I figured that it would be better to see a job more than once, than not at all, so I wanted to err on the side of too much info.

Fortunately most sites allow you to do a search and then set up a feed specifically for that search, although surprisingly, Monster.com was not one of them. If you didn't want one of their "pre-developed" searches, then you're out of luck. So Monster isn't on my list.   

Netvibes also allowed me to add some useful modules to my Dashboard. You'll see that I included a basic web search,  a "To Do" list feature and Web Notes that allow me to create little "stickies" to leave on my dashboard. This would be great for leaving myself reminders or recording ideas. I could even set up a separate tab just to hold my notes if I wanted.

I could also add e-mail from several sources (gmail, Yahoo, etc.) and a calendar. Unfortunately the calendar they provide doesn't allow you to write items on it and I couldn't find support for Google calendars, so I would have to access my Google calendar by going through to my gmail account if I wanted to do that. Not the end of the world, although it would be nice to have it directly on my dashboard.

One of the things I wanted to be able to do was access my "On-line Portfolio" (my wiki)  from my Dashboard. So after I set it up (more on that in a second), I created a feed on my Netvibes site to the front page of my wiki. (It's the first feed on the graphic below) That way I would always be able to get into my wiki through my Netvibes Dashboard.

Here's the basic dashboard:

Netvibes_screen_with_edits

Now that I had my Dashboard, it was time to turn to the portfolio.

Creating an Online Portfolio with PBWiki
Because I wanted a way to upload and maintain job search materials online, I decided to create an online portfolio using PBWiki. If you want to see the sample I created, you can either go here or you can access it through the Netvibes Dashboard I put together.

I didn't do this for the sample, but in the "real" version, you could upload your resume, cover letter and work samples so that they would always be available to you from anywhere you had a browser and an Internet connection. You could also scan copies of diplomas, certificates, etc. to upload.

The wiki could also be a place to store links to job search resources, like how to answer interview questions, helpful videos or podcasts, etc. You could either put links there as you found them or create  a feed from De.licio.us to go there so that you would just bookmark as you were surfing and the feed would automatically update at your wiki. For that matter, you could put the feed directly onto your Job Search Dashboard if you wanted.

I actually plan to do more on using a wiki as an online portfolio at some point down the road, but I think that for now, this gives you a picture of how it could work.

So those are the two pieces. I think that this idea could work well for a lot of job seekers. It allows you to access job search information and materials anytime, anywhere. That would be a HUGE plus for the tons of Welfare to Work and other individuals with whom my clients often work. It also puts job leads into a single location so that you don't have to go from site to site to your saved searches.

I'd love to hear any feedback or suggestions people have for additions, improvements, etc., so drop me a line or leave me a comment if you have some feedback you want to share.

P.S.--I used FastStone Image Viewer for the Screen Captures. Took me about 2 minutes to download, install and get my first screen capture. Nice tool that I'll have to explore further.