During Super Bowl XLIX (in 2015), there was a BMW commercial that played back a conversation between Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric from 1994 puzzling over an Internet e-mail address. Having sent my first Internet e-mail over a dozen years prior to their 1994 discussion, I found it interesting that they would be struggling to adapt to the technology at that time. The commercial posed an interesting point — adapting to technology isn’t always embraced by all members of the public at the same rate or fervor.
In many ways, in the job search arena, we are equally resistant to changes that are not fully mainstream. Today thousands of jobs are being advertised on SimplyHired, a job interview is now commonly done via Skype, a large percentage of recruiters are searching LinkedIn profiles for candidates, Twitter has been converting some new job tweets into interviews within 10 minutes of posting, and hiring managers expect you to be tech-savvy before you show up at their office! It’s become clear that to not understand and embrace technology-based job searching tools and strategies, you will be looking like Katie and Bryant back in 1994.
Therefore, here’s a list of 10 technology things you need to research, study, embrace, explore, or at least become familiarized with during your job search:
LinkedIn Profiles for networking — If there is ONE thing that you should do to start your tech-enabled job search, it’s developing a great LinkedIn profile. Recent polls indicate that recruiters use LinkedIn more than any other social site to locate job candidates and they mostly rely on locating candidates with great profiles. There are a number of good starter discussions throughout the Internet, including a couple on my blog site. You might also see what the LinkedIn people themselves suggest as a good way to set up a profile for the job hunt.
Skype for online interviews — Get your PC or Mac configured with Skype, a camera, a headset (not speakers), a professional setting (not a laptop set up in the kitchen!), and then practice having video chats with a friend that can give you feedback on how well you present yourself through a laptop or (shudder) a smart phone. Forbes has some good tips you should consider when getting ready for the inevitable Skype interview.
Twitter, tweets, and finding your voice — Recruiters are looking for you…on Twitter! Just having an account isn’t enough. If you’re considering working for a tech-savvy company, a company with “younger” workers, or a company with a high profile social network presence, then you need to get your Tweets in order. Columbia University has a nice shopping list of things to get you started in your Twitter job search.
Establish a personal website — At one time, a website was the domain of just the geeks and the marketing departments. Now it’s a place for you to establish a brand online. Get a website (free is OK) and cobble together a “portfolio” site that is strictly the professional “You” that the recruiters need to find. No pictures of the family, no CandyCrush scores, no product ratings, no political leanings, no hobbies…just a very professional site. This is especially good if you have a common name (Bill Smith, John Jones, etc.) where there may be dozens or hundreds by that name in LinkedIn or Twitter. You only need a page or two … and with today’s “drag-n-drop” web creation sites, it’s easy. Look at Webs.com or Wix.com or any number of free sites – these will help you get a few pages up easily. From there, you can make it clear which Bill Smith in LinkedIn you are. Provide links to your profile in LinkedIn, point to articles you’ve written, share some samples of your work that a manager might like to preview, create a page that you can list on your contact/business card that can serve as a effective follow-up to an interview.
Blogging to express your talent — If you are reading this article online, it’s on LinkedIn and also on my www.mrl8nite.com blog. WordPress.com or BlogSpot.com are examples of easy-to-use blogging sites where you can present and gather feedback to your talent. It’s hard to get an audience to participate in your blog, so look at it more as a “periodic publishing” site for your talent. Use the MrL8Nite approach and start writing informative articles that you can share (via links) with others that might be interested in your topic. Once the blog is established (a dozen or more posts), consider linking it to your LinkedIn profile or putting it on your resume or mentioning it in your cover letter as appropriate. Click here for more guidance on starting a blog.
Microsoft Office (especially Word) — If you can’t set page breaks, use the table-of-contents option, align a right tab marker on the ruler, set line-spacing attributes, demonstrate effective use of track-changes, or embed graphics with text wrapping, then you aren’t proficient at a corporate-level mastery Microsoft Word. The same with sorting, filtering, auto-summing, inverting tables, and writing macros for Excel. These talents (and more!) are often expected when you say “Proficient at Microsoft Office” on your resume. I always suggest starting with a book from “For Dummies” series (bad name, good content). A great place to get some FREE training on Office is GCFLearnFree — this site is hosted by Good Will Industries and it’s a great place to get good, free Microsoft Office courses that will walk you from creating your first PowerPoint presentation to flipping pivot tables in Excel. Take advantage of it!
iPads and other tablets — The rest of the world has embraced tablets…and you need to as well! I’m primarily a PC user (not a Mac user), and even if you are too, I’m going to suggest you get an iPad rather than an Android or Microsoft tablet. The iPad is a dominate presence in the market and many applications for tablets are created for the iPad first. If you’re already a Mac or iPhone user, then pick up an Android tablet. The reasoning here is to have the necessary cross-platform skills to be conversational regardless of whether the hiring firm is Apple or PC or Android focused. You might consider a low-end or used/refurbished tablet to start with…no need to invest in the high-priced stuff just to become an experienced user. Oh… GCFLearnFree has a decent intro to iPads tutorial for those that are novices to the technology!
EdX.org, Lynda.com, and other learning sites — Edx.org is a great place for people wanting to look at new careers, expand their knowledge of their existing industry, or to get a real education on technology. Consider courses such as Introduction to Computer Science from Harvard, Smartphone technology from Cornell, Designing Learning Games from MIT and many others. These are real college courses you can audit or take for credit. Need to brush up on your math? Courses on Introduction to Algebra and Geometry suitable for high school students can be taken here. If you just want to learn some specifics on technologies or business practices or personal improvement, look at the courses on Lynda.com — they’re great for the “I need to learn it quick” issues in your career. Don’t let commuting challenges or a limited choice of colleges in your area or not having a technology expert in your office keep you from learning what you need to know to succeed in your career.
Online news for current events — Whether on a tablet or a smart phone or on a computer, tap into the world news and current events. What we see on CNN or read in USA Today or hear on talk radio is often too “common-interest targeted” for the job seeker’s sole source of news. You need to be aware of a wide variety of topics to liven up those interviews. Water vapor on Mars, Greek debt refinancing, Swiss-made solar-powered aircraft flying around the world, stock market highlights, human rights violations in Venezuela, the latest on Ebola, newest report on statins and their link to diabetes…you should get the idea. Be informed about the economy, health, science, world events and other brain-broadening topics. Let the recruiters know that you’re well versed in a wide variety of knowledge and current events. To do this easily, subscribe to a couple of broad-based news services and read them daily. I use the Reuters and Business Insider apps and I also follow Pulse, but feel free to find a webpage or app that keeps you informed on business and technology, such as Harvard Business Review, Tech Crunch, Fast Company, etc. Read your news before every interview and before every networking meeting! (Hmm…yes, you could do most of this with a real “paper” newspaper, but we’re talking tech here!)
TED Talks for cutting edge knowledge — This idea builds on the online news suggestion above, but Ted Talks focus on the technology advances of the day. From robots to microbes to big data to cancer detection to supercomputer advances. The technology-focused videos are some of my favorites and lead me to understand the impact that the change in technology is having on my life and my industry. (There are some unusual topics here on things like poetry and depressed dogs, but look past them for the videos that can benefit your plan to embrace technology!) The goal is not to be a technology guru, but to not be a technology dinosaur.
Bottom Line: You need to talk the (tech) talk and walk the (tech) walk. Employers are looking for people that “fit” in their environments. And the environment has changed for many of us that reached our “technology maturity” before Pandora or Hulu or Snapchat or iPads became part of the common technology landscape. Taking time to master Office, be up-to-speed on current events/technologies, embrace blogging, establish a solid LinkedIn profile, and Skype with friends — these are a few good stepping-stones to help you establish a footing in the 21st century technology realm. Don’t be a technical dinosaur. Take some time to ensure that when the recruiter says, “Let’s use Skype for the interview!” that you are ready to demonstrate your technical proficiency!