My love/hate relationship with social media bottomed out five years ago when I was run over by a texting jogger. I will let that sink in for a second, as you don’t normally see ‘run over’ and ‘texting jogger’ in the same sentence. As I was picking myself off the ground, holding a broken arm, I decided to swear off social media forever. I turned into a grumpy curmudgeon yelling ‘Get off my internet you whippersnappers’ like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. The happy go lucky technophile who once loved nothing more than posting Weird Al videos on MySpace was for all intents and purposes dead.
“If you care for something and do a little to help it every day, it will grow into something wonderful. “
Fast forward a couple of years to the beginning of my recruiting career with Special Counsel. Colleagues suggested that I stop pouting and open myself up to the world of social media. Convincing myself that it was highly unlikely another texting jogger would come into my office and run me over again, I grudgingly logged onto LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook among numerous other sites. My face instantly lit up like the 10 year old me receiving a Batman action figure on my birthday. I was blown away by the possibilities that were now open. I sent an email to my boss asking her, “Do people know about this social media thing? They should, because it is great.” She informed me that not only do people know about it, but I may have been the last person on the planet who did not have a profile somewhere. My love affair with internet networking was rekindled, and I am unsure how I would function without it.
Looking back at it now, here are some ways I fell back in love with social media, and you can too (just without the whole jogger incident).
Connect with alumni.
I was instantly attracted to LinkedIn for a multitude of reasons. My first foray into the rabbit hole led me to reuniting with many friends from law school and college that I had lost touch with professionally. Through them I was able to gain access to clients and candidates that I normally would never have met. By reconnecting with former classmates, you’ll find new contacts in your professional network who can provide referrals, leads, and career opportunities.
Post a profile picture.
My rekindled romance was not all roses and rainbows. Still being skeptical of this newfangled technology, I kept my profile picture blank. Not surprisingly, people were unimpressed by the big gray outline of a human that appeared when they clicked on my profile. My co-workers referred to me as a “LinkedIn Creeper,” not letting a day go by without sending me a message that simply read ‘Stranger Danger.’ Putting my picture on the site was a huge hurdle for me to overcome as I had spent a good amount of time and effort specifically making sure my rather large head was nowhere to be found on Al Gore’s World Wide Web. But alas, I acquiesced, and one fateful Tuesday I uploaded my face onto my profile for the entire world to see. To my surprise, the sky did not fall. A matter of fact, people starting reaching out to me, wanting to pick my brain about career opportunities or business ventures. My icy exterior was melting, I was starting to really warm up to this whole social media thing. It is imperative to think about how your profile is perceived by clients and employers; is it warm and inviting because you included a picture or is cold and generic because a gray box exists instead?
Join some professional groups.
Believe me there is one out there for everybody, and on the off chance there isn’t, don’t be afraid to start one. LinkedIn has millions of professionals with diverse and interesting backgrounds. Be it alumni associations, professional organizations or personal interests, being part of the online community can be wildly beneficial both personally and professionally. If a misfit like me can find places to fit in, anyone can.
Reach out to your social media contacts.
Don’t just accept the invite and then do nothing. It is all well and good to have 3200 connections, but if you don’t do anything with them, what is the benefit? I was that guy for a while; I bragged about my connections and the sheer volume of them—until someone pointed out that I had no idea who most of those people were. I was missing the entire point of the site; I was not networking. Since then, I have made a concerted effort to reach out to all my contacts. If you get an email from me, don’t be scared. It is highly unlikely, but I may have something interesting to tell you.
Use the site daily.
I know this seems obvious, but if you don’t actually go to the website, nothing will happen. No one is going to do it for you, but if you put in the time, I promise good things will happen. I grew up on a tree farm outside Pittsburgh, and I learned a great lesson at a young age. If you care for something and do a little to help it every day, it will grow into something wonderful.
I am a convert—no longer a creeper. I have integrated Twitter and Facebook into my recruiting as well, and wouldn’t you know it, not once have I been run over. Social media in 2014 is a necessity for lawyers looking to grow their practice or to find a new job. Without it I would be lost, and certainly would not be successful. Things have come full circle. I am no longer afraid of putting myself out there and I have even begun to post Weird Al videos again.
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