So in my last post on my blog ThirdWorldProfashional HERE, I mentioned that I'd look into a post on how I used social media to further my career. This isn't a "how-to", in the sense that I'm not saying this is how it should be done, what I'm saying, is this is how I did it and if my method is able to help anyone then its all good.
In my entire career I've had three jobs, interspersed with internships at law firms while I was an undergraduate and as a Volunteer Legal Adviser at a non-profit during my LLM in Aberdeen.
My first proper job was during NYSC, as an Associate at a top 5 law firm in Lagos. I got that job because I had interned at the particular firm while I was at university and maintained a relationship with the staff and partners, so when I applied again for NYSC they were very glad to take me on for my trainee year.
After that I went off to get an LLM in Oil & Gas. After my LLM, I moved back to Nigeria and got a job at GE after a month. I got that job because a connection (whom I didn't know personally) reached out to me on LinkedIn saying she had heard so and so company had a vacancy and she thought my profile fit the requirements and would I like to apply for it. At the time I didn't even know what company it was, she just said it was an oil and gas servicing company. I applied, interviewed and was hired in two weeks.
I left GE three years later and started a Legal Consulting Firm called DAX Consult and expanded beyond my Oil and Gas niche to a Corporate Commercial Practice. LinkedIn was invaluable in helping me source transactions and helping clients find me. One of my biggest transactions was for a Gas to Power company in India and they found me on LinkedIn through a convoluted process by searching for "energy legal consultants in Nigeria".
I put my practice on hold to join a pan-African law firm in Equatorial Guinea, with 8 offices in 8 countries around the continent, and with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. As you know by now, I got this job by applying for the vacancy via LinkedIn. I applied on January 11th and got the Offer February 7th.
Besides my first job, the two companies I worked for subsequently were initially as a result of social media, most specifically LinkedIn. I didn't know anyone at any of those companies before or during my applications, nobody called in any favors for me, my parents didn't help out in any way despite the fact that they could but I never gave them any reason to. They were all got solely on merit. Not that there's anything wrong with getting help in a job search if you need it, I just want to dispel the belief that it is almost impossible to get a job in Nigeria or anywhere for that matter without some form of nepotism.
I have done it, it is entirely possible.
Spruce up your LinkedIn Profile
I cannot stress how important it is to have an updated, truthful, LinkedIn profile. Times have changed and the standard resume/cover letter hiring gambit is almost obsolete. Yes you still need all those things but the days when companies and hiring managers were shadowy figure sifting through tons of paper applications are over. Nowadays the company is on your Twitter feed, on Facebook, on LinkedIn. Hiring Managers are your e-friends. Your LinkedIn profile is your virtual resume. Make it as detailed as possible, cover every single ability or qualification you possess, you never know who might be searching for you.
I have the most amazing LinkedIn connections. I have searched for every and anybody in my field of practice and on the fringes and sent them requests. I may not even have a direct or present use for the person but the intention is to keep them within my sphere of observation in the event that sometime in the future I might need them or need someone that they may know and vice versa, and this has paid off umpteen times.
In real life I am not a typical effusive, ebullient person, I am very reserved and tend to not like to overstep boundaries or interact constantly, but online I am a socialite. I'll initiate conversations, I'll participate actively....there's no famzing on LinkedIn. You're there for a purpose and you've been given this opportunity to interact directly with people you'd never see on a normal basis. Use it.
Write, Comment and Like Articles
This is all part of interacting online. When I see an interesting article written by one of my connections that is also useful, I'm right there commenting and liking aggressively. Sometimes it may be a bit difficult to initiate conversations with people you don't know but you can get them to notice you by commenting intelligently on something they've written. That can sometimes lead to a deeper professional connection. Also writing article of your own can't hurt. Ensure the topic is relevant, current and thoroughly researched. It can lead the right people to you and show them the persona beyond the profile.
Send out Enquiry Messages
This is something I did when I first left GE. In the short period between my leaving and starting DAX Consult, I thought I might like another job and proceeded to send out a whopping 479 messages to 479 different people requesting for opportunities. Someone reading this may have received one of my missives even, I was aggressive, I was thorough and it paid off massively. Through one of the responses to my email, I got the resources to completely flesh out my idea of going into legal consulting and starting my own business.
I tweaked this message for every individual person but this is the general format of what I sent out (guess I'm going to have to come up with someone else now since I've given this one out for free)
I don't usually like seminars, the meat of the matter is usually over and done with pretty
quickly then the rest just drags interminably until I want to slit my wrists with conference notepaper. However sometime last year I got a message on LinkedIn from one of my connections, a a person I'd added because I saw he worked for an international council that handled follow up energy law training worldwide. They were having the West African edition of a very popular seminar they held in various countries around the world and he wanted to invite me. I'd heard the seminar was happening and from the Speakers lined up I knew it would be a terrific opportunity for networking, but I also saw it cost $5,000 to attend and since my money wasn't that long I unlooked the situation.
This man however offered me free access to attend the seminar on all the days, the dinners, the networking drinks etc. You can imagine my face when I saw that email, like nah...which kain one chance be this. This seminar was worth $5,000 and he was offering me a chance to attend for free. I definitely asked why and he said he liked my profile and the interactions he had seen and he thought I'd benefit from the experience.
He didn't have to tell me twice, on the day I was ready in my best black dress, my bag bristling with business cards and my firm profile. I networked like mad and met a few noteworthy contacts at the seminar but something else also happened there that I didn't realize the impact of for a few months...I met my current boss.
He was a keynote speaker at the event and I wandered into a circle where he was talking to a few other people. At the time I'd heard of him and his firm, knew the work they were doing and was suitably impressed, so I stood there, listened to him expound on different views, offered my own opinions and moved on. Didn't think anything of it, didn't even think he noticed much less remembered who I was. Even when I saw the vacancy for my current position posted a few months later, I wasn't motivated enough to apply for it.
When I did eventually apply and was hired and got to Malabo, I never mentioned to him that I'd met him in Lagos because to me it was inconsequential and I was positive there was no way he had remembered me. But I found out later that it did, he remembered me and some of the opinions I'd offered that day had gone a long way in making his and his teams eventual hiring decision.
Attend seminars sha, that's all I'm saying.
I really hope this was helpful to someone out there, these tips definitely helped me a lot and helped me formulate a very defined and strategic pre, during and post interview process. I will do another post on this process in the future, and also how to build a career in fashion journalism.