Make sure you make the internet work for you, not against you, in your jobhunting, says Sarah Perrin.
It’s impossible for most people to imagine life without the internet. How did we cope without it? Whether communicating with colleagues on the other side of the world or organising holidays, the internet has become the natural – even essential – tool to use.
In recruitment too, the internet has become a key resource for both employers and candidates. Online jobsites are well established. Anyone reading this item will know that CareersinAudit.com is an invaluable source of job information, as well as audit-related news and intelligence. A few people may change employers without ever sampling such sites – some headhunting calls can be worth following up – but the majority of people will need and will want to do a certain amount of online legwork to find the right new role.
Ways in which the internet can be used when jobhunting keep evolving. For example, TheCareerMole.com aims to help jobseekers find out about a potential employing organisation from an insider. Employees can register themselves as “moles” and make themselves available to answer questions from people potentially interested in working in their organisation. The moles can advise on CVs and applications and potentially refer the individual for a position. The philosophy underpinning the site is that employees are good judges of candidates’ suitability. Not all recruiting organisations are happy about such developments, mind you, as registered moles could potentially give a misleading impression of what opportunities exist or what the working environment is like in other departments.
Another novel source of contact with potential employers is Second Life, the internet-based virtual world that seems to be developing beyond its game-playing roots. Participants create their own character – an avatar – to represent them in this alternative environment. Avatars can explore, have fun, work and even earn money in Second Life’s own currency. If this just sounds like a bit of fun, some organisations are taking it more seriously – using Second Life for marketing purposes and to attract and recruit new talent. Blue chip corporates and professional audit firms are starting to investigate the opportunities, some setting up virtual offices staffed with their own avatars and others running one-off recruitment events. They see Second Life as a way of coming into contact with individuals around the world who they might otherwise never get a chance to meet.
For jobhunters such developments could have benefits too. You could talk with senior executives, via your respective avatars, without immediately revealing your own identity, or even your gender, race or any other personal details. In this sense you will be judged on the content of your virtual conversation, not your physical appearance (although your avatar could create its own impression, for better or for worse). You may also be able to register for early stage interviews, which are again held in the virtual world. The organisation can find out more about you, and you about it, without any travel involved.
If this all sounds bizarre, that may be because it is very early stage. The jury is out on whether using sites such as Second Life for recruitment will become widespread practice. It’s not cheap to have a virtual office or to pay employees to staff it with avatars available to respond to enquiries. More established forms of jobhunting are far from redundant and remain the key for applicants.
Nevertheless, you can take advantage of the internet to promote yourself. Networking sites, for example, are creating opportunities to develop new contacts in your field. One of the better known versions is LinkedIn,which many professionals are already using to network and to highlight their own skills. It’s a form of personal sales window that can be seen anywhere, any time.
More socially-focused networking sites, such as Facebook, are less valuable for job-related activity. In fact, they should be treated with caution by anyone seeking to present a professional face to the world. Before posting up a photo, ask yourself: does it matter if my employer – current or future – sees this? Could I be professionally embarrassed? Remember too that joining other people’s networks carries some risk if you don’t know anything about them. It’s easy to create a false persona on the internet.
That said, creating a genuine and professional internet presence can support your career ambitions. Many recruiters will Google a candidate’s name to see what kind of profile they have. People who speak at conferences, write articles or give press quotes will make a more impressive online impact.
Audit professionals are in a good position to make the internet work for them as they look to advance their careers. Healthy scepticism about some of the information made available about organisations and other people should come naturally. By applying judgement, it is possible to get the most from the internet resources available, while minimising any risks in terms of threats to personal reputation.
Written by Sarah Perrin for CareersinAudit.com, the leading job site for auditing vacancies.