Like many people I joined Facebook quite a while ago but it was only when I repatriated in 2009 and had some time on my hands that I investigated LinkedIn and Twitter. In fact job hunting was one of the main reasons for opening those accounts as almost every article I read told me how important networking through social media was becoming.
My first lucky break came via a Tweet from Jo Parfitt linking to a posting from Families in Global Transition who were looking for a volunteer to help them manage their social media presence. It was a perfect fit for me. Not only did it scratch my itch to do voluntary work, but it was related to expatriates, virtual (so I knew I could make a commitment even though my location might change), and coincided with my new interest in networking using the internet. I still haven’t met anyone from FIGT in the real world – we communicate via Skype and email – but I’m looking forward to getting together with them at their next annual conference in Houston in March. Through them I’ve already connected with dozens of interesting expats, ex-expats and expatriate experts and learned a lot from their experiences. As always, volunteer work is giving me back far more than I contribute.
But it doesn’t cover the bills, so I was still on the lookout for a paid opportunity. Not easy when you’re in your late 50’s, haven’t worked in your home country for 14 years (including 10 years completely out of the paid workforce) and the world’s in the middle of a huge recession. Still, fortune favours the bold and encouraged by my success I started tapping on the virtual shoulders of a few people on LinkedIn. Having joined a whole host of groups on behalf of FIGT, I discovered I was now connected with literally hundreds of thousands of people and with a former career in real estate, combined with my expat experience, I thought relocation companies might be a good target. Not all my polite requests for referrals were answered, but all it took was one, and soon my resume was being placed in the hands of someone directly responsible for hiring. The wheels of corporations turn slowly, and I must admit that as the weeks drifted by after my first interview I assumed I wasn’t a suitable candidate, but then in late November I was summoned to a second interview and by the end of the day had a job offer in my inbox. Wahoo, I did it!
What I’ve learned through these two experiences:
- Writing online profiles is a really useful excercise in defining who you are and what you want. Don’t expect to get it right first time; I still tweak mine from time to time.
- Networking can be done from your living room. I’d rather have root canal than walk into a room full of people I don’t know.
- You can reach out to people even if you’re new in town or newly returned.
- Strangers (not all, but most), as well as friends and former colleagues, will give you a helping hand. Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Networking and working, even as a volunteer, gives your self-esteem a huge boost and really helps you get over culture shock/re-entry shock.
- Social media is an incredibly power tool.
Good luck to all those who are job hunting!