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5 Stellar Strategies to Land Your First #SocialMedia Job

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Want more career advice on breaking into a career in social media? Join Whitney Parker, Ashley Hoffman of Brazen Careerist and special guest, Nando Rodriguez, the senior social media recruiter for Ogilvy & Mather in NYC for a free webinar on how to get a job in social media on April 5 from 4-5pm.

Social media management is a trending career path for 2012, and entry-level strategists are in high demand. In nearly every industry nationwide and even globally, businesses are turning to young, tech-savvy professionals to help them navigate social networks — seeking more sales, better engagement and business leads for their products for less cost than traditional print and TV advertising. A quick search on Indeed returns nearly 30,000 openings in the United States alone, and Simply Hired lists more than 40,000 positions in social media.

But what can young professionals do to get hired for one of these entry-level openings, especially without prior experience? It’s probably not enough to tell a hiring manager that you have a Facebook page, so where do you start?

After talking with dozens of recruiters over the past several months and helping hundreds of participants complete social media courses and job skills classes, I’ve compiled a list of my top five strategies:

1. Test your mettle by committing to an internship

Not only are full-time positions in social media abundant, so are internships, many of which you can do from home. The grunt work involved in social media marketing can be tedious, and it’s not for everyone — but it’s essential that you understand the time commitment involved in being successful in your online engagement strategies. If you’ve never helped manage a brand or company social media profile, find an internship to get a little experience under your belt before committing to a full-time position.

In short, you don’t necessarily need to have a prior paid job managing social media channels professionally, as long as you can prove you’ve been exposed to the trade and know what you need to learn. So dive in and and start practicing.

2. Target your potential employer with a social media ad campaign

One of the most direct ways to get a job in social media is to demonstrate your ability to target your audience with social media ads. Set up a simple website or splash page with your resume and your best video introduction and bullet points about why you are the best person for the job, and then target Facebook ads at the company where you’re seeking employment. Sam Solomon is one job seeker who used this strategy successfully.

He cautions however, that just setting up the ads is not enough. “The most important part of this campaign is your landing page. This is where potential employers that click your ad will be directed. Do not simply send employers to your LinkedIn, or Visual CV page. Great advertising for a product with a terrible presentation does not lead to any sales.” So spend some time learning about how to create an effective sales page and give this technique a try.

3. Take an online course to show you’re savvy about learning new skills

Few applicants applying for entry-level social media positions have any direct experience at the business level in social media management, and unless you’ve sought out internships to supplement your college education, your university marketing classes probably didn’t give you enough exposure to the newest online tools that companies need you to know.

“I don’t believe this is something that can be taught in school, so I don’t look for any specific educational backgrounds,” said Tracy Terry, president and founder of Trust eMedia.

One way to set yourself apart is to enroll in a professional training program that gives you a tangible skill to add to your resume and career portfolio. If you don’t live in New York City or San Francisco, chances are in-person training is hard to come by, so check out online opportunities like Brazen Careerist’s 4 Hour Social Media Strategy Course,  MediaBistro’s online classes or Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University. Adding professional training to your resume will truly set you apart and give you a leg up once you get hired.

Since social media is a field that’s changing quickly, employers look for applicants with proven ability to continue their education outside the classroom. How will you stay on top of technology trends if you’re not committed to ongoing training and learning?

4. Highlight your outgoing personality traits

When you apply for an open position, make sure your resume and cover letter reflect an outgoing and well-connected personality — even if you’re an introvert. In the online world, it’s all about your first impression, said Sarah Rapp, community manager at Behance Network. “Social Media is all about personality, and if real passion for the field comes across, this is much more valuable in a candidate than relevant experience.”

Many of us in the social media field aren’t actually extroverts. (That’s why we love playing on computers all day.) But you can’t let that show in your daily interactions within your community. When Dave Brown, director of digital strategy for MKG in New York City hired a new social media coordinator for the top-ranked advertising agency last year, his first concern was character: the right candidate would have a sense of humor, be supremely creative, passionate and a great communicator, he told me in a recent conversation.

5. Optimize your own social profiles and point employers to them

Finally, you should have an up-to-date and professional-looking personal Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter or Youtube account, according to Amy Porterfield, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies. Jennifer Hasche, a senior recruiter for Intuit, agreed in a recent conversation, and recommended pointing potential employers in the right direction by listing all of your social networks on your resume and in your cover letter.

This might sound narcissistic to start creating a brand around yourself, especially if you’re on the shy side, but Amy suggests a way around that. “To really highlight your personality and skills, build your social media networks around a passion you have or something that interests you,” Amy said. “For example, if you are an avid runner, set up a Facebook page to give advice and create a community around the best runs in your local area. Another idea is to set up a YouTube channel that is optimized with keywords to attract other avid runners and post your videos and other’s videos spotlighting topics related running.”

Not only will this demonstrate your grasp of social media tools, but it also gives you a platform to explore your passions, which in turn can lead to other career opportunities later on. Afterall, if you set up a YouTube video series related to your love of golf, why not apply for an internship with Adidas social media team and merge your passions for golf and social media? The best of both worlds!

The opportunity for new job seekers is clear: social media is trending as a career path for the next several years, and employers are ready to hire. The challenge will be to set yourself apart with added skill and moxie, even if your experience seems thin.

Whitney Parker is vice president for user experience at Brazen Careerist, where she co-hosts a bootcamp on how to create and implement a social media strategy and a 7-lesson job search course available on-demand. She’s co-hosting a free webinar on how to get a job in social media on April 5 from 4-5pm with special guest Nando Rodriguez, the senior social media recruiter for Ogilvy & Mather in NYC.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • The LI$T

    #5 is really helpful advice. We are looking to help young employees to break into social media careers at our college advice blog, The LI$T!

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  • http://twitter.com/RaginaSmith Ragina Smith

    These are great tips!! I’m registered for the webinar on April 5th and I can’t wait to hear more information. I noticed that you listed the webinar being at 8-9pm but when I signed up it said it would be 4-5pm and so does the above boarder. Has the time changed?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Ragina! Thanks for catching that timing typo. The event is 4-5pm EST, and I just corrected it on the post here. Looking forward to having you participate in the webinar on April 5!

  • Ragina Smith

    Thanks Whitney for the clarification. I appreciate you answering back.

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  • Anonymous

    i consider taking an online course the most efficient way.. but nevertheless it worth try all the others!
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  • http://twitter.com/AdamBritten Adam Britten

    Good tips, Whitney. At any point do you think an applicant using a “social media campaign” to get noticed by an employer will be passe?

    • Anonymous

      Ha, yes, probably Adam! That’s why it’s a good idea to stay on top of trends and keep thinking about how to innovate. But this idea is still pretty new and my guess is that very few recruiters have really seen a candidate target them for a job.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thesunzz Stanley Teoh

    thanks for yr tips…learned!

  • Anonymous

    hm…will optimizing of your own social profiles be really effective?
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    • Anonymous

      YES! Optimizing your Linkedin profile is an amazing way to get noticed by recruiters. Another great tip is to join groups that recruiters are likely to be a part of (like the largest Jobs networks or ones that focus on jobs in your field) — this will ensure that you are 1st or 2nd level connects of many recruiters via a group association and thus more likey to appear when they search for people with your skill sets. Remember that when recruiters search for you, you may not appear unless you are at least a 2nd or 3rd level connection and have a profile that is 100% complete!

  • http://www.newfulcrumpoint.com/ david warner

    Yes I think optimizing your social profiles and pointing them towards employers is best strategy to propagate yourself in proper channel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tameka-Mullins/690195359 Tameka Mullins

    Hi Whitney! I’m really looking forward to the webinar. I have optimized my social sites and I’m looking for more tips. I have a background in public relations and was wondering if making correlations between the transferable skills between PR and social media would be helpful in landing a position in the digital sector. Thanks!

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    this is an excellent strategy to expose yourself to others and specially it is very key point to see for employers.

  • http://www.wwuniversity.eu/ wwuni

    now facebook is affecting the every day life more and more even in the job sector so optimizing your social profiles and pointing them in the right direction can lead you in very favorable situations

  • Doreen

    Boy, do I get fed up with ageism! At least ten times in this article, the author says the applicant must be young young young young ( ad nauseum )!!

    Well, I am 61 and I manage social media for a magazine. In just two weeks, I increased our Twitter followers about 300 %! My blogs are so popular, they have been posted on other people’s websites. I could run circles around any twenty or thirty something!

    Ageism is cruel but even worse, it prevents employers from accessing a goldmine of talent out there.

    And, by the way, nothing replaces the serious talents and skills of people with a lifetime of expereince – That is Gold, Baby!!

    Doreen – Victoria BC

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    But what might not be obvious is what, exactly, young professionals should do to position themselves for these emerging roles. And no, it’s not enough just to have a Facebook Page.

    During the last several weeks, I’ve talked with dozens of hiring managers who have recently filled these types of positions.

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