MARIA OGNEVA'S BLOG
Hello, and welcome to my blog and the digital home for my thoughts. Most know me as @themaria, my handle across most social media sites and communities. My actual, given name is Maria Ogneva, and I love writing, traveling, eating, and spending time with my new husband.
I am passionate about how social media is changing the way we communicate, help and relate to each other, share news and make the world a smaller, more hospitable place. I work at Salesforce as Director of Product Marketing on the Communities product, where my job is to help customers (and the world at large) to be successful in building communities. I learn every day, and I share my thoughts and personal growth here.
Please note that the views expressed here are my own, and do not reflect those of my employer or any of our clients.
In case you are wondering, I’m the horse, and this is coming from my mouth, as I’ve been working in the industry, and have been (and currently am) a hiring manager. This post was inspired by over a hundred resumes that I looked at over the past week in search of the next superstar to be Yammer’s social media intern. It is understood that interns are at the beginning of their careers — still at school or recent graduates –no one is expecting oodles of experience or the polish that’s expected from a more mature professional. However, we, the hiring managers are looking for raw talent, passion, commitment and success characteristics. While reading these resumes, there are a few common threads that I discovered, and I wanted to share them here, just in case it can help someone:
1) It’s a social media job; use social media channels
Ideally, you would find this opportunity via social media. Whenever there is a social media job available, please be assured that it will be tweeted, Facebooked, blogged, etc. The best way to demonstrate that you are the right person is to act like you are. Your ability to simply find the job opening signals that you: know how to keyword search and are plugged into the community by following the right people. If the job is worthwhile, it will get amplified by individuals whom you should probably be following. Even if you didn’t find the job in a social channel, you should still try to connect with that company online. Send us a tweet, leave us a blog comment — show us you know how to use the tools, not just know what they are.
2) Demonstrate interest and passion for the space
How do you know whom to follow? If you are truly interested in the space, you should be able to figure this out. Start with keyword searches first, and soon you will discover who the doers and the thinkers are. It may take you a little while to figure out, but if you are truly committed to the space, you will follow breadcrumbs to great people and great content. Follow Twitter lists, follow people whom your networks read and follow, join communities for practitioners. Listen first, then start participating. Keep up with news, try services and apps, while honing your eye to understand which platforms and services have longevity built in.
3) Know the industry and the company
In addition to being interested in the craft of social media, you should also know the industry your target company is in. Passion is paramount when you are in such a public role; your community will be able to tell insincerity and lack of passion. If you want to move people to action, you have to be credible; you need to live and breathe your industry. Recently, I saw @climbergirl speak about how she came to represent REI in social media. She grew her presence organically by being there and connecting with others around her passion: climbing. If you aren’t passionate about social in the workplace, you probably shouldn’t apply for Yammer; if you don’t care about helping young parents and babies, you probably shouldn’t work for Huggies. There are several ways to show that you are serious about the industry –steps you can take in the long term and in the short term. In the long term, if you wait until the day you apply, it’s too late — you should’ve been developing your presence and your voice already. In the short term, please say something about the company and the industry in your application materials. We, the hiring managers, know that you are applying to other jobs (duh!), but if you can’t take the few minutes to replace your canned letters with something more personalized and relevant, why should we take the time to read your resume? True story: someone called Yammer a gaming company in their cover letter. They got discarded immediately.
4) Don’t waste time on a cover letter — keep it short
Speaking of cover letters (and this applies to all jobs, not just social media), please keep them short. We, the hiring managers, are reviewing resumes on top of our jobs, which are often rather busy, which is why we are looking for help in the first place. If we can’t get through your letter in 30 seconds and understand who you are — enough to move on at least — you are going to get tossed or put in the “maybe” pile. If you do write a cover letter, cut the length and cut the B.S. We don’t really care why you are really awesome at spreadsheets; we are looking at raw talent, communication skills, passion for the space and a general interest and facility with social tools. We also want you to capture our attention quickly, as you have to do in tweets and blogposts. We don’t want big words, we don’t care how you optimized a synergy in a holistic approach. We do care if you bleed this stuff — yes, if you want to be on the cutting edge, you do have to bleed. One guy captured me by giving a link to his blog and saying how he blogged when he couldn’t sleep. That gave me chills. Be careful though of exaggeration, though; to an experienced practitioner, it’s very obvious when you mean it and when you don’t. Botton line: beware of B.S.
5) Be human
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you have to write a cover letter, you are probably doing it wrong. If you are applying for a social media job, spend less time on job sites applying and writing cover letters, and more time trying to find the hiring manager through your personal networks. I understand that you are young and don’t have big networks, but we are out there and available. Using myself as an example: I’m everywhere and easy to find — you can ping me on @themaria, @yammer, leave a comment on this blog, leave a comment on the Yammer blog, Yammer FB page or LinkedIn group, come spin some records at Turntable.fm (yep, someone did that!). You can find us at a public conference or event; we social media people are often at in-person events. Check us out on Plancast, but please don’t stalk; walk the line between letting people know you are there and being annoying.
Do anything, do something! Just by doing that, you will put yourself in the 90th percentile of applicants (as the applicant pool stands today). Please don’t just throw your cover letters into an abyss. Social media is about being human, so please be human. I find that a personal email with bullet points introducing your resume works better than a formal letter. When you find us online, please take a few moments and figure out what we are all about in our jobs. If you are applying for a job and haven’t read the company’s blog / slides on Slideshare / etc, you probably won’t get picked. Make sure to work that into the conversation. Bonus points if you comment on the blog
6) Show, don’t tell
We don’t care about long drawn-out laundry list of irrelevant experiences and self-proclaimed awesomeness. Let your digital profile speak for itself. You probably don’t have a huge digital profile to speak of, but if drunken pictures are the only thing that comes up when I google you, that’s not good. You need to show that you are deliberate and conscientious about what you put out there. If you are passionate about a subject, start a blog or a Twitter account. You don’t have to post 1500-word posts; you can opt for a shorter, more casual format like Posterous.
7) Follow instructions
Speaking of your digital presence.. Make sure you enclose links to your work in your short letter / introductory paragraph. If the job description specifically asks for links to your profiles and says that applications without links won’t be considered, you better believe it! Sure, we could Google your blog, but if you make it easier to find yourself, you score bonus points.
8) Be interesting and relevant
See #5: be human. To really make an impact and stand out from the crowd, be interesting. I read over a hundred resumes, but I only remember 5 or so off the top of my head. The “awake at night” guy, the people who tweeted, the people who talked about our blog content, and the guy who came to hang out in the Yammer Turntable room
Although this post was inspired by what I saw and experienced recently, while looking for an intern, this advice actually goes for all job levels. The biggest mistake you could make when looking for an internship is to treat it as “less than a job”. Many internships end up in full-time offers (if you bring the awesome), and even if they don’t, it’s job experience that can help you land a full-time job. In case you are wondering, the Internet is a big place, but this is a “small world”; word of awesomeness travels fast via the backchannel, as well as publicly.
Photo source: Tambako the Jaguar