HR Discussion

Apply Onlineā€”Building Your Digital Presence

Rob Deptford, Forge Ahead Coaching

Gone are the days when you could simply send in a résumé to an employer, meet the hiring manager if selected to do so, and wait to find out if he or she liked you enough to make a job offer. Technology has altered the traditional job search process. It is a pattern I have seen before in the industry in which I started my career, and I hope drawing a parallel will offer some food for thought prior to your next career move.

Journalism is a significant part of my foundation, and I remember thinking it was a rock-solid industry with a strong future. But journalism in the traditional sense is eroding. In 2014, my hometown daily newspaper stopped the presses for the final time. Skilled people lost their jobs, and a town with a population of more than 85,000 lost a traditional communication medium that had long been a pillar of the community. It was neither the first, nor the last, newspaper to suffer demise at the hands of instant access to free content on the Internet. Things changed very quickly; while other newspapers have survived, they have found it challenging to adapt their cumbersome structure to the highly nimble digital realm and still remain competitive.

In similar fashion, the tools we use for job searches have gone digital and are changing so much, so quickly, that some job seekers are having a hard time keeping up. Leveraging available technology is critical for a successful modern job search. And yet, having done career coaching with more than 300 outplacement clients since the start of the current economic downturn in the energy sector, it has become evident to me that a lot of people are not prepared to compete in the digital space for their next employment opportunity. Why not?

As I’m learning, some energy sector job seekers have never found themselves laid off before, so they have never had to compete, let alone create a strategy to stay on top of changing job-search technology.

My clients have told me the energy sector is a small world, and many people have grown their oil and gas careers simply by doing good work, building a reputation for themselves, and maintaining relationships. For those who have changed companies to climb the proverbial corporate ladder, offers to do so often came in a casual setting—perhaps over lunch—without any competition, and without a job posting ever being advertised. This is a common story in any industry when jobs are plentiful and qualified talent is hard to find. Networking pays off with little effort.

However, in a market where there is a lot of available talent and relatively few jobs, like the market we are experiencing now in much of the energy sector, these people who have never had to compete are behind the eight ball. While networking remains the best investment of your time in a job search, those offers over lunch can quickly dry up, likely because those lunch companions are also looking for work. Like the newspaper business, job seekers suddenly have to compete in a digital environment, and those who have not kept up with the technology have been caught off guard.

The good news is that the technological pieces of a good job-search strategy are not hard to learn, and it is never too late to take a new approach—one that continuously markets you to an audience of prospective employers. A job search can no longer be viewed as a one-off task to undertake only when in need of a new job. Instead, it is an ongoing process that continues even while you are gainfully employed.

Let us take a look at the impact of technology in a few areas of job search.

Self-Assessment

Getting to know yourself—especially your strengths, weaknesses, and values—is an important step in a job search. When we figure out which tasks we do well, in which surroundings we thrive, and how we prefer to operate, we can more easily clarify our sense of purpose and attempt to find work environments that support us in being our very best.

Technology has allowed for access to dozens of online self-assessment tools, each offering its own unique perspective. You might be familiar with tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Strong Interest Inventory, DiSC (dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness assessment tool), and the Birkman Method. A simple Google search leads to many options with descriptions of their specific intended uses. Most of the tools come with a cost (for example, it will set you back about USD 50 to complete the MBTI), but there are many free options which can be a good place to start. Revisit self-assessment periodically. People grow and change over time, so your ideal job characteristics will change accordingly.

Active Search

In a nutshell, this is the act of finding an advertised posting and promoting yourself for the role through the application process. It is your outbound marketing. While there are still some job opportunities advertised in newspapers (good recruiters know how to reach different demographic segments), most advertised opportunities have moved online. Web-based job boards like Monster.com and Workopolis.com have been around for many years, and sites like Indeed.com and Glassdoor.com have become more popular lately. These tools are highly customizable, so you can search for exactly the kind of job you want, at the seniority level you want, in the location you want. Salary level is also an optional filter on some sites, but it is still rare that an employer advertises salaries, so it is not a very effective filter.

In addition, many job-board sites also have convenient apps available for your mobile device, so you can easily scan advertised postings on the go.

Passive Search

Of course, the best place to be online in a professional sense is LinkedIn. It does have job board functionality, but your LinkedIn profile plays a much more important role. In marketing, the term “top-of-mind awareness” indicates the customer’s preferred brand or product associated with any particular industry. By maintaining an online presence on LinkedIn, you keep yourself top-of-mind among your network, and you make yourself searchable for prospective employers. It is your inbound marketing—bringing prospective employers to you.

LinkedIn was slow to grow after it launched in 2003, but according to its own statistics, it now boasts more than 433 million users in more than 200 countries and territories. This amounts to a huge, easily accessible talent database. It is no wonder employers have taken notice and begun to include LinkedIn in their recruitment processes. Some human resources departments have now hired LinkedIn specialists to search out potential candidates for a vacancy and reach out to them directly, even if those people are not actively looking for work.

Of course, you have to have a LinkedIn profile in order to be discovered on LinkedIn, and some people are difficult to convince. Here are three excuses for not creating a LinkedIn profile I hear most often:

  1. My boss will notice I’m looking for another job. This concern stems from a generation ago when people worked at the same place for their entire careers and loyalty was a two-way street between employers and employees. In today’s job world, chances are your boss is also on the constant lookout for the next opportunity and would be supportive of your efforts to develop your career, even if that means moving on.

  2. I’m a private person and don’t want to have an online presence. If you Google your name, what appears in the search results? It is very difficult to avoid an online presence these days, so you are better off actively managing it. A well-constructed LinkedIn profile will always rank highly in an online search, and if you think about it, the professional information in your LinkedIn profile is exactly the information you want employers to find. As well, effectively managing your online presence so you are well-represented is a skill employers want people to have. Assume it is a certainty that prospective employers will Google you. 

  3. Social media is a waste of my time. I don’t care what my “friend” had for lunch. You have LinkedIn confused with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or some other social media platform. They are all effective communication tools, but they serve different purposes. Whether or not they are a waste of time is a matter of opinion, but employers certainly are not interested in what people have for lunch either. As such, if you are on other social media platforms built for casual interaction with friends and family, make sure they are in privacy lockdown. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is your professional online presence and needs to be available for prospective employers to see.

Use LinkedIn to connect with professional colleagues you know, and ask them to introduce you to people in their LinkedIn networks as a way to grow your own network. Also, reach out to people you may not know, but may have a business case to connect with. You would probably do that at an in-person networking event, so why not on LinkedIn?

As your connections increase, share useful articles and information, comment on other posts, write your own articles, join like-minded groups, and follow organizations you might like to work for. This will help position you as a thought leader in your field and keep you visible.

Job Interviews

Employers are increasingly choosing to conduct interviews via Skype, FaceTime, WebEx, or some other video conference platform, particularly for nonlocal candidates. It is important to familiarize yourself with these tools prior to your scheduled interview so the technology does not get in the way of your conversation.

Set up your laptop or mobile device in a well-lit area with a neutral background, ensure your Internet connection is stable, dress for success, and carry out the interview as though you were meeting face to face.

With a little learning, ambition, and time, it is possible to transform yourself into a tech-savvy job seeker. If it all seems overwhelming, start with small steps. Begin by creating a LinkedIn account, uploading a professional photo of yourself, and creating a catchy headline and summary of your areas of expertise. Explore the rest of LinkedIn, and other technological job-search tools, whenever you have some spare time. The best way to learn new technology in any industry is to use it, and when something new comes along, be curious and check it out.

Finally, be resilient, agile, and adaptable. After all, at the rate things are changing, when the time comes for you to search for your next job opportunity, there may not be a newspaper around to help you.


Rob Deptford is a career coach, communicator, and marketer in Calgary. Deptford conducts private coaching through his own company, Forge Ahead Coaching, and is currently a senior consultant at career transition firm, Toombs Inc. He began working with youth on career development strategies in 2003 and has since served in student affairs, marketing, and communications roles at several leading post-secondary institutions, most recently at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering. He is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and holds an ICF-accredited coaching certificate from Erickson Coaching International in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also holds a diploma in radio and television broadcasting from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary, and a bachelor of journalism from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia. And yes, he is on LinkedIn.