In a crowded marketplace, with thousands of applicants vying for a limited number of vacancies, candidates should do more than simply submit their CVs in response to advertised positions. Instead, they should proactively use social media to make them stand out from the crowd and to catch the eyes of potential employers, experts say.
“No matter what your vocation, you can use social media to boost your profile in your chosen industry,” says Elbie Liebenberg, Principal at Oxbridge Academy, a brand of ADvTECH, Africa’s largest private education provider.
Liebenberg says employers now, as a matter of course, look up social media profiles of candidates, which is why these platforms are so brilliant as tools to profile experience, competence and creative thinking.
“It is no longer enough to make sure that there is nothing damaging on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. While it is important to reflect your professionalism on these platforms, and get rid of anything that may harm your candidacy, you also need to use these platforms in a proactive way to position you favourably,” she says.
Erika Theron, Academic Dean at The Private Hotel School, ADvTECH’s hospitality institution, agrees.
“Entry-level positions are highly contested and scarce, yet almost all of them call for experience. Social media provides an opportunity to gain experience, showcase creativity and initiative, and serve as a platform for demonstrating your personality and capabilities,” she says.
Theron says someone who completed a Diploma in Event Management, for example, can do the following to firstly gain experience, and secondly, leverage that experience on social media:
“What you want to do is demonstrate that you can apply what you have learned. Few students have the budget to throw a massive event simply to demonstrate that they can. So therefore you need to find existing opportunities, for instance a community fair, a charity ball or auction, or a local market.
“Approach the organisers and volunteer your services to help make the event a success. Refer back to what you learned at your college and apply these principles, carefully documenting what you are doing and why. On the day of the event, use your phone to take and edit great pics, and post them to your social media accounts with clear captions and industry-related hashtags. Include any testimonials from the organisers or guests as well.”
Renee Hill, MD of Capsicum Culinary School, says the same approach can be followed in the food industry.
For instance, someone who holds a Diploma in Food Preparation and Cooking, will have learned how to prepare, cook and finish foods by frying, braising and stewing, boiling, poaching and steaming, baking, roasting and grilling, and the non-thermal cooking method.
“So next time you have, for instance, a family event where food will be prepared, step in and help develop the menu so that it can showcase your skills in these methods. Have a family member or friend take awesome pics and video, and apply filters to make the images look exciting and professional.
“Again, add detailed captions and hashtags, and create your cooking album on Facebook or Instagram. Prospective employers will then be able to see your passion and ability if they dig through your online presence.”
As a final example, Theron provides a strategy for those who studied Tourism Management.
“Create a fun local itinerary for your friends or family – something that will take into account everything you’ve learned on your course, such as timing, transport, and access fees. If budget is tight, put together a day of activities that are not yet on the tourism map and for which you won’t have to pay entry fees, such as a downtown tour or public park tour.
“Make sure someone takes video of you leading the tour on the day, as well as great images. Post the itinerary, video and pics to your social media profiles,” she says.
“Entry level positions are highly coveted, and candidates must bring something extra to the proverbial table,” notes Hill.
“Social media provides the ideal tool to not only connect with people in your industry and be aware of vacancies or opportunities before they arise, but also to demonstrate that you are a candidate to take note of. Practising your craft ensures you are always growing and learning, while documenting what you’ve done provides the perfect opportunity to raise your profile.
“Practice makes perfect and using social media to your benefit shows that you have a self-starter attitude, while also giving a confidence boost when you next find yourself in the interview room.”