Trying to break into social as a career? Looking to make a transition from your existing role to one that looks more like a social or community professional gig?
Here are a few tips from the trenches.
1. Read the job description.
In reality, “Social” in the title means nothing. In fact, some companies are so convinced they need a social/community/whatever that they just cut and paste job descriptions from somewhere else on the web.
Then you have companies who absolutely know what they’re looking for, and write a description accordingly.
A social media coordinator is not a community manager is not a social business strategist is not a digital director. Just because there are social aspects to a role does not mean that your experience translates.
2. If you can’t glean the business purpose of this role through the description, walk away.
Did I mention GMOOT syndrome? It’s the strategy of “Get Me One Of Those”, and there are so many jobs out there for “social” people that are nothing more than someone to man the Twitter account.
If you can’t see that the business has considered how and where the role fits into the larger department or organization, it isn’t a role they’re likely to keep for long, and not a role you’re likely to thrive in, no matter what.
Don’t let your desire to have a social gig overshadow a role that isn’t well thought out, or you’ll find yourself on the market all over again in no time.
3. Social media savvy is becoming table stakes.
Tough love: you are no longer special because you understand social media at a surface level. You are not outstanding talent because you can navigate Facebook.
What you need to demonstrate is that you understand social’s role in strategy, whether it be discipline-specific (like marketing) or business-wide. Ideally both.
As the next generations enter the workforce and move into leadership roles, you have to learn to describe and apply your value in terms broader than your knowledge of some tech platforms or the latest whizbang. That’s valuable in the moment, but knowledge of social media is becoming a skill, not a job.
Learn the implications of social business and how to articulate your ability to further it, and you’ll be much better off.
4. “Social” jobs will evolve to look nothing like they do today.
Within the next 5-7 years, more and more businesses will sunset social-specific roles (as they should, to a degree) and recognize that social is a mindset, a philosophy, and a set of practices that absolutely needs to be treated holistically and embedded into many different roles and disciplines.
There may always be a need for those that understand it better than most, but as you increase the level of responsibility, specialization and market-surge hype around roles goes away and companies look to professionals that are core to culture, vision and strategy, not a functional area of expertise.
You don’t want to become obsolete. Relevance is everything in a light-speed world, which means not pigeon-holing yourself as a “social media strategist” just because that’s all the rage.
The people who ascend into leadership roles understand how to avoid typecasting and always, always adapt.
5. Look for roles in your field that do *not* have social in the title, but whose value could be increased with social knowledge.
The age-old conundrum: I can’t get experience without a role, but I can’t get a role without experience.
Quit chasing the job title you think you want on a business card, and instead look at roles that you are already qualified for — regardless of title — that take advantage of your expertise, skills, knowledge, and where you might be able to use your social point of view to add value and dimension to the role and teach others, too.
If social is strategic, then you should be able to bring its value to any role you take on. If you don’t have enough experience to be considered for specialized social roles, then you have to get that experience somewhere, and be willing to work to attain it even if that means starting somewhere that’s better suited to your existing background (or the potential you’re able to communicate).
Feel like you’ll be restricted and not allowed to tread into social territory in a different role? Then you’re looking at a culture issue with the company, not a limitation of a job description. That needs to weigh into your considerations.
6. Now is not the time to carpet-bomb your network if you haven’t been cultivating it. Suck it up and do it better next time.
Desperation is not a strategy.
If you haven’t spent the time to gently and continuously invest in the relationships you have with people over time — especially the tenuous online connections — you have no business sending a mass email/LinkedIn Message/FB message/all of the above to everyone that you’re remotely connected to in order to have them help you with a job search.
If you have put in the time and energy, the few relationships you have cultivated well will bear much greater fruit in a job search than the ones you abuse because you’re frantic to get the word out about just how badly you want a social media gig.
People want to help others. But we can’t all help everyone who asks, and we don’t feel particularly valuable if we’re just one of thousands of people to get a generic, mass inquiry.
If you need a hand, spend the time communicating individually with people, and think specifically about how they might be able to help you. Ask politely. Be gracious. And offer something of value in return.
We all benefit when we help each other, but you don’t earn the trust that makes that help valuable by treating your connections like nothing more than an audience on the other end of your bullhorn.
7. If you don’t like the climate, wait five minutes.
As a both an experienced social professional and someone who has hired for social roles, trust me when I tell you that:
- Roles exist for people with lots of related experience but no specific background in social.
- Companies exist that have great vision for what social can become. Some will never get it.
- Your professional worth is not wrapped up a job title.
- Thinking creatively and demonstrating enthusiasm for learning will always make you a more attractive candidate.
The landscape of social business will continue to change, and the roles that are needed to support it will continue to change too. In fact they are doing so rapidly.
So as you’re out there pursuing a career in this trendy field, remember that business as we know it is what’s truly changing. Social is just the window dressing, the catalyst, the thing that’s set it all in motion.
Put yourself in a position to be a strategic asset instead of a tactical one, and you’ll always be ahead of the game.