Career coach Alex Freund called from Israel to talk about an upcoming seminar. The conversation lasted for nearly an hour just before the end of the business day in the eastern U.S. and near midnight in Tel Aviv, and nothing about the call felt extraordinary.
Freund, master of five languages, spoke with traces of his native Romania in his voice, a voice so clear that, as many of us would have exclaimed a few decades back, he could have been standing right in the room, rather than speaking from 6,647 miles away.
Such is the march of technology, now turned into a sprint that even Usain Bolt would be challenged to outrun. The world where the prudent waited until after 5 p.m. to make long distance calls has, of course, given way to a cellphone-in-every-pocket world where talk time is generally free, but where, increasingly, no one wants to make an actual call when communicating via text or Twitter will do the job.
The evolving world of communication technology and etiquette has extended into every sphere of life, and, says Freund, job seekers need to embrace it. “If you want to accelerate finding a job, social media is the best way,” he says.
Freund, principal in Hopewell-based Landing Expert Career Coaching, speaks on “Social Media Tools for People in Transition” on Monday, October 29, at 7 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library. Call 609-924-9529.
Freund, a graduate of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration (Class of 1974), worked for a number of large corporations, including Tyco, Honeywell, and Sanofi-Aventis. Early on in his career he realized that moving from one job to another would be something he would have to do many times. To prepare himself, he attended a three-day seminar on job hunting. He wanted to learn the principles involved so that he would always be ready to move on to the next opportunity.
Intrigued with the process, Freund began to help friends with their career transitions. At first this was just an avocation, but in 2005 he founded Landing Expert, and made career coaching his full-time business. During the past seven years, he says, he has worked with well over 400 people.
“Some are analysts, making $30,000 to $40,000 a year,” he says of his clients. “Others are bank CEOs, very high level, making seven digits. But most are making $150,000 to $300,000.” Of course, for a full 70 percent of his clients, these figures are past tense.
Some of his clients are employed and looking for new jobs, but most are out of work. “There are all sorts of reasons,” he says. Some of his clients were fired, some were downsized, and some chose to stay behind when an employer moved away. Change, he says, is the constant, and everyone has to be ready with a strategy for moving on.
But many are not ready at all. The recently unemployed people that Freund sees are often lost when it comes to the latest ways of connecting with those who can help them find a new job.
“They are not comfortable with social media,” he says. “Initially they resent it. They don’t know how to deal with it. There is a great deal of hesitation and skepticism.” What’s more, social media is not intuitive. Learning how to use it well takes some work. “There is a steep learning curve,” says Freund.
In general, he finds, young people are already deeply involved in using social media, while older people balk at the very concept. Is there a cut-off age for social media literacy? “Oh no,” says Freund. “It’s like aging. You see 85-year-olds who are very active and 55-year-olds who look and act very old.”
No matter what the age, Freund has found that everyone can get the hang of social media — and that job hunters absolutely must do so.
Get LinkedIn. Freund, who has 4,400 LinkedIn connections, cannot emphasize strongly enough that LinkedIn is the place that anyone in career transition needs to be.
“LinkedIn is number one,” he says. “Second is Twitter, then Google+, and Facebook.” Facebook is 10 times larger than LinkedIn, he says, but he sees it as “primarily for younger people.” LinkedIn, on the other hand, is “number one for business.”
“I tell my clients ‘you must be on LinkedIn for one hour every day,” says Freund.
The social media site has many advantages, he says. Beyond being the go-to site for serious business people, it is where recruiters often look for talent. “More than 90 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn,” he says. Also, he adds, “it’s free, at least for now.”
Show your face. Freund finds that many people do not want to post their photos on social media sites. Sometimes the issue is as simple as having put on a few pounds and feeling uncomfortable about appearance. Other times, he says, people fear discrimination.
They worry that broadcasting their ethnicity or age will sink their chances of being considered for a job. And they’re right. Recruiters can pass over them, and they will never know why, says Freund. Still, he insists, it’s imperative to post a picture.
“Facts are facts are facts,” he says. Whether you are 10 years away from Social Security or a mere 10 months out of college, your approximate age is part of your package. People may discriminate against you when they see your picture, but, says Freund, they will definitely discriminate if you don’t post a picture. “They’ll assume that you have something to hide,” he says.
So, post a picture, but not just any picture. “For $9, the cost of a sandwich, you can get a professional picture,” says Freund. Spend the money. Put up a photo that shows you at your best.
Research your contacts. The rules for real world job hunting apply online, as well. Sites like LinkedIn are places to network, but before beginning the process, determine just who you want to meet. Research your target industry and companies. Locate people within them who might be able to help you or give you information. Then, says Freund, reach out to them online. Begin a dialogue.
An advantage of social media sites, he says, is that they can make it easy to have a two-way conversation. It’s not just you sending out a resume, it’s you starting an interaction. There is an ability for some back and forth, some follow up questions.
“A resume gives your facts,” says Freund. “A social media site shows your personality.”
Keep it brief. On Twitter you get 140 characters. Period. There is no limit to the amount you can put in one post on most other social media sites, but Freund suggests that you keep it brief.
“Don’t post your whole resume to LinkedIn,” he says. “People have an abundance of reading every day. The shorter and more to the point, the better chance that people will read it.”
Embrace keywords. Long a staple of resume advice, the importance of using keywords applies on social media sites, too. Job hunters of a certain age recall being told to use action verbs. But now, says Freund, verbs have been ditched in favor of keywords.
This is especially true when computers are on the prowl for job candidates. They will only “see” those whose keywords match the narrow criteria of a specific job.
“If I want someone with two eyes, one nose, two ears, I will only see you if you use those keywords,” Freund gives as an example. It may be obvious that someone seeking a job as a new media editor is experienced as a blogger, videographer, writer, and, yes, as an editor, but if those keywords are not there, postings might never be seen.
Do unto others. Just as in real life, it’s important to be a giver as well as a taker on social media sites. Devote some online time to helping others make connections with people, information, and jobs. Freund follows this advice and finds it tremendously satisfying.
Following another real life rule, take the time to get to know the people you meet on social media sites. “If A asks me to connect him to B, and I don’t know either A or B, I’m not going to make a connection,” says Freund.
After you have set up a social media network, made new connections, and nurtured relationships, hang onto them after you land a new job.
“Keep social media a part of your life,” says Freund. “Clients who have found jobs often say ‘I’ll be on social media forever!’” Some follow through, but many don’t. “When you have a job and come home at 7 p.m. the last thing you feel like is being active on social media,” he says.
This is a mistake, says Freund, a veteran of many job transitions. “Fit social media into your life,” he says. “It has a beginning, but no end. Stay with the program.”