If you’re like most high-performing professionals (especially at the senior management level), you’re probably used to having job opportunities fall into your lap.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that you didn’t need a resume to land your last job, or that you haven’t used a resume for your last several roles.

It’s been like this for decades: someone in your existing network recommends you; a consulting agreement turns into something more significant; a new job is finalised over a coffee meeting.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach. It’s worked for years, and will continue to work – albeit to a lesser extent – for years to come.

But there is a catch: we’re currently undergoing a massive disruption to the way job search happens.

How Social Media Will Change Your Career.

Social media is democratising the process, which means that recruiters and decision makers have access to a much broader pool of job seekers.

That old school word-of-mouth networking many professionals rely on? Now it has to compete with digital networking, personal branding or, as I like to call it, “human marketing”.

In this new world order, digitally savvy candidates with fewer in-real-life relationships, but a better understanding of how to leverage social media effectively, are capturing an increasingly large share of the opportunity pie.

If you’re not ready to become a digital dinosaur just yet, here’s my five-point plan to leveraging social media to manage your career and land the right opportunities – in 2016, and beyond.

Step One: Change Your Mindset.

It might surprise you that using social media to improve your job prospects doesn’t start with social media itself. You’ll see why that is in a moment.

Fact is, job search is dead.

It may sound drastic, but things have been heading in this direction for years. In 2016, you don’t need a job; you need an opportunity to deliver value.

In boxing, fights are won and lost long before fighters step into the ring – and the same thing happens in careers. Professionals who spend their time trying to prove something and stroke their own egos will have drastically different careers to those who are there to help others succeed, creating value for people and businesses.

Value-adding professionals need to reframe their thinking and career strategies: they have something specific, unique, and in-demand to offer, and it’s time to focus on that, rather than a specific job.

Doing so will significantly elevate the tone of your conversations, and help you see potential employers as collaborators and partners in success, rather than a source of something you desperately need, such as a steady paycheque.

It will also, incidentally, set up a healthy and strong foundation for your social media powered personal branding strategy.

The concept of “job search” is not only done, it’s counterproductive: focus instead on cultivating relationships, exploring opportunities, offering advice and expertise, and connecting to create collaborations.

Step Two: Define Your Value.

Once you’ve made the shift from a ‘getting’ to a ‘giving’ mindset, you need to hone in on what you offer, how it’s unique, and why it matters to target companies.

While you can certainly go it alone, working with a personal branding strategist can be useful, because they’ll push you to articulate value in a way that goes above and beyond job descriptions and experience levels.

For a personal brand to be effective, you need to find that sweet spot where the value you offer matches the pain points of your target companies, and it’s something you actually enjoy working at.

I call this The Golden Triangle, and the best personal branding strategists will help you find it, and then create a unique selling proposition that matches your offering with what the market actually needs.

Of course, personal branding work doesn’t stop once you’ve defined your value. You also have to articulate it.

An effective personal branding strategist will tie your career moves into a cohesive narrative, creating a story-driven approach that shows the value you’ve delivered in the past, and how you can apply that experience to current pain points.

They’ll also arm you with a résumé, LinkedIn profile, business portrait, executive website, elevator pitch, and content strategy: all the tools you’ll need to share your value on social media.

Step Three: Connect With Your Target Market.

In my opinion, most people don’t do networking; they do ‘sliming’ – pretending they have something to offer, when in fact they’re only focused on meeting a thinly disguised need of their own.

Real networking means building lasting relationships from a place of having something genuinely valuable to offer.

A few years ago, I heard about a start-up business coach targeting top executives. Before he signed his first client, he hired a well-connected consultant to introduce him to target clients, asking every single person he met, “what’s your biggest problem, and how can I help you.”

By focusing 100% on adding value, and asking nothing in return, he quickly established a viable and wildly successful business, earning loyal, high-value clients that knew first-hand the depth of his insight.

I’m not saying you need to go to such extremes, but when it comes to digitally-driven job search, opportunity seekers are better served by approaching connections and meetings from an ‘offering’ rather than a ‘taking’ perspective.

And once you’ve built your brand, understand the specific value you can offer, and have a professionally written resume which works in conjunction with your social media presence to articulate it, you’ll be in a much stronger position to do just that.

Step Four: Become A Broadcaster.

Building your personal brand with face-to-face networking will only get you so far.

Even if you’re creating value and building relationships with 10 highly targeted people in your market, there’s a thousand more professionals and businesses that could benefit from your expertise and offering, if only they’ve heard of you.

That’s where creating your own content comes in.

Few businesses can get away with not having a content marketing strategy these days, and the same goes for professionals who are looking to position themselves within an increasingly competitive market.

Content – blog posts, social media updates and editorials – serves two purposes:

  1. Top of funnel brand awareness. The more of your content is shared, the more eyeballs you have on your personal brand, and the more chances the right people will strike up a relationship with you.
  1. Brand communication. Content provides potential employers, recruiters and clients with an extra touch point through which they can get a feel for how you think, what motivates you, how you work, and what your values are. It also gives you a chance to demonstrate how much you know.

It’s at this point in my business – creating actual marketing strategies to promote the personal brands we’ve created – that I often get resistance from clients.

I get it: creating content eats into your time.

However, it’s important to remember content can be infinitely leveraged: it continues to work for you long after you’ve written the piece.

To me, spending 4 or 5 hours to broaden my reach from 10 to 10,000, or more, with no time limit on the benefit, is a no-brainer.

Step Five: Pay For Reach (Optional).

This is where your personal branding strategy starts to mirror that of a major brand, reaching targeted audiences you’d otherwise have no access to.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Google give you the option to “promote” your content straight into social media feeds and search results of highly specific audiences.

They will, of course, charge you for it – so in order to avoid throwing money into the wind you’ll have to know what you’re doing and be strategic in your approach.

I recommend reverse-engineering the process to optimize results:

1. Define the objectives:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What are their pain-points and challenges?
  • What content alleviates those?

2. Create a piece of content to meet the objectives.

3. Create a targeted paid social media campaign.

4. Keep an eye on people who like, share, retweet, and comment on your content.

5. Initiate relationships with those people by offering real value to solve their core problems.

Let’s say you’re a VP, Customer Happiness who has led multiple cultural transformations over the course of your career, creating ground-up customer cultures across several organisations.

You’re ready for your next challenge, and are willing to give paid social media – powered personal brand building a try.

  • Block out 10 – 20 hours of your time – about 2 hours per day.
  • Begin by writing a guide to building customer-focused cultures that shares your expertise and could help other organisations. Put your heart and soul into it and make sure it’s a showcase piece by drawing upon personal experience, including research and case studies, and sharing stories.
  • Upload it to your LinkedIn profile as a post.
  • Create a paid LinkedIn advertising campaign, targeting senior business leaders in your region, or executives at a specific company, if you know where you want to work.
  • Run the campaign for 1 week. It should cost $300-$1000, depending on targeting.
  • When the campaign ends, open your blog post and check out the statistics to see who shared, liked, and commented on the post.
  • Plan to follow up. No one likes a spammer, and you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong things, so before you make contact, do your homework. Who are they, and what challenges are they dealing with at the moment?
  • Follow up with a LinkedIn InMail, directly addressing their needs and sharing the value you can offer in your message.

If you’re balking at the time and financial investment, consider another scenario: you’re a Consultant invited to speak to a captive audience of 100 C-suite execs at a Future of Customer Relations seminar in NYC, but you’d have to take a few days away from billable work to prepare and travel.

Would you do it?

I’m guessing you’d say yes.

The thing is, in the age of content marketing and paid promotion, you don’t need to speak at conferences to reach those executives.

And if you’re smart about it, you can probably do it for less than the cost of the lost billable hours.

Key Point To Remember.

If you ask me, 2016 will be the year in which network-based ‘fall in your lap’ opportunities start to decline.

To remain competitive, professionals who are serious about their careers will need to take control of their personal brands and leveraging social media to communicate their unique value in a way that reaches the key decision makers in their field.

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