More and more social media-related jobs are coming on the scene, from social media directors to content marketers to community managers to everything in between. And there are bunches of folks with an interest in these jobs, but unsure how to best position themselves to get one.
The quick, hard truth: your interest in social media isn't enough. It's important and we'll talk about that below, but it alone is not enough to qualify you for a professional position (unless the company hiring for it doesn't have a clue.)
I've hired several people for social media positions to date, so I can at least tell you what's worked in my experience, and what I'm looking for when I recruit. Here are a few things you need to be armed with in order to put your best foot forward for a job involving social media responsibilities:
Strong Communication Skills
At the heart of any social media gig is the ability to communicate with people. Not in marketing terms, but in person-to-person terms. If you cannot write well and speak articulately, you can forget it. Here, successful experience in sales or client and customer service is helpful, or another position where you've had to put communication skills in play on a regular basis.
This also includes demonstrated experience working well and collaborating with colleagues; these roles have a heavy teamwork component and are often working across several other departments in the organization. Point to examples where you've worked well within a team, or led one through a project (and what you learned).
How do you know if you're any good at this? Ask people to read your writing. Talk to friends and colleagues and have them give you feedback about your communication skills, and where you can improve. (For instance, I know I tend to talk too fast when I'm excited, and I fling heavy vocabulary sometimes when simple words would do, but my strength is in clarity.)
Because social media positions are still emerging, it's likely that you haven't held a specific social media job before the one you're vying for. And that's okay, but you need to learn to translate your experience and relate what you've done with what you're hoping to do.
If you're a marketer or a PR pro, you'll need to emphasize your understanding of how people use and consume media, and how companies can best connect with their customers online. If you have a sales or customer service background, you'll want to look at how your ability to solve problems and establish rapport with people offline could translate into an online environment. If you've come from a more technical background, you'll need to demonstrate your project management and collaboration successes, and probably work harder to show that you have communication chops and people skills.
Changing career industries has always been about taking foundational skills and attributes and applying them to different roles. This is the same thing, so you'll want to put some thought into the similarities between what you're doing now, and the role you'd like to land. Build and display your resume accordingly.
I can't emphasize this enough, and I talked about it at length over here.
You need to have an idea of what it's like to work in a professional environment. I know there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, the serious positions out there upon which you can build a career need the perspective and experience that comes with having a few business skills under your belt.
That doesn't mean it has to be an office: you may have learned a thing or two about business behind the bar (I learned a bit about bookkeeping, for example, and the challenges of hiring and keeping good talent). But if you're hoping to land a gig leading a cool company's social media strategy, they're going to want you to have some demonstrable experience working in a business environment before they're going to trust you with such a public, visible, and emerging part of their business.
Demonstrated Work Ethic
Part of the hitch with social media gigs is that they're just not 9-5 propositions. And it takes a certain kind of person that's willing to take on a role that's going to require some extended hours, as well as an internal (and perhaps external) leadership role.
Social media folks will have some work ahead of them in terms of establishing some professional standards for their role, as well as expectations with their management and colleagues. They'll need to be building in new measurement and performance metrics that help the company see what's working and what's not. They'll end up doing a good deal of negotiation, education (both internally and externally), and outlining business cases for their undertakings.
If it's for a company that's serious about social media, it's not going to be a fluffy job. It's hard work in an emerging field, which means that you're putting yourself under scrutiny, and likely doing the work of more than one person while you help build a business case for roles like this.
Social Media Experience
Yes, you need it. You might not have it as part of your job right now, but don't think you're going to get a gig without it.
And that means a heck of a lot more than having a Facebook page (because that's just not special in itself). If you have your eye on social media jobs, you'd better start looking at social media through a business lens. Do you have a blog or a Posterous where you're exploring how to use it to share ideas? Do you have a Twitter account that you've used to establish relationships, and can you point to tangible results from that? Have you participated in online communities that interest you to learn about their operation, culture, and nuance?
Don't expect that companies are going to invest their money in helping you learn social media. You have to do some extra-curricular studying of your own to earn the consideration. That's the nature of wanting a career in something new. You have to spend your own time learning in order to convince someone you're a good hiring risk.
Here's where I break from the pack: I, personally, don't care about your degree, and I've never hired a person based on that prerequisite. I don't care where you got it or what it's in. (I have a secret about my college education that I'll tell you in a post tomorrow).
In my 15+ years of work experience, the only places I've seen specific degrees matter a lot are in technical or highly specialized jobs like medicine, engineering, or law. In most other cases, the most adept professionals I've found have a consistent set of skills and attributes that are completely independent from the degree they have (if they have one at all). One of the best marketing people I know has a degree in botany.
Realistically, some companies are going to care. Those aren't the companies I want to work for, because they're focusing on past decisions instead of earned skills and potential. But it's up to you to decide how you'll handle this bit. If they're asking for a marketing degree and you don't have one, you'll have a job on your hands to explain why your experience and results translate and might matter more.
I'd love to hear from those of you that either hold social media positions, or have hired for them, and what I'm missing. Share your experience with the droves of folks out there hoping that their next job is something in this realm.
If we have hope that social media has a legitimate place in the business world forever more, we'd better be prepared to present ourselves as professionals deserving of leading the charge.
What say you?
Link to original post