A chef out of work for a year asked whether it's possible to network effectively via social networking sites. It absolutely is possible.
The big three for networking are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
LinkedIn is perhaps the best place for professional networking with more than 40 million users. Sign up for LinkedIn, create your profile, and then locate former colleagues to add to your network. An effective LinkedIn profile is a marketing piece, that summarizes your "core value proposition" and your accomplishments. Base it on your resume, and then use some of the great tips for using LinkedIn that you can find on this blog or via careerealism.com.
Very important to remember for using LinkedIn most effectively:
1. Draft your profile BEFORE putting it on LinkedIn. That way, you have something complete the first time. You can always update it.
2. Put on a professional-looking photograph. For a chef, wear your chef whites so that your name shows. It will show that you are serious about your profession.
3. Use key words in your description of yourself, as well as in your Summary and Specialities. Key words are those words that describe what you want to do and are likely to be picked up by employers. LinkedIn has a very sophisticated search function for recruiters and employers to use to identify ONLY those LinkedIn members who meet specific criteria. Keep yourself in the game by using industry-specific jargon and language along with plain old English.
4. Update your status at least 2-3 times a week. Every time you update your status, a notice goes out to your network. Every time you add someone to your network, a notice goes out to the rest of your network. People usually get compendium e-mails "LinkedIn Updates" once a week; some choose to get them every day. You will stay "top of mind" for people through these notices. Make your updates about your job search, in an upbeat way.
5. Get recommendations. The most effective way to build your presence and credibility on LinkedIn is to get recommendations from former employers, colleagues, and co-workers. The more recommendations you get, the more credible you are. You ask people to recommend you and then you are able to see what they say BEFORE it is posted to your site. If you are not happy with what they said, you can politely thank them and then ask if they'd be open to a suggestion for how they could help you more, by emphasizing x, y or z, because that's the kind of work you're looking for.
Recommendations are very important if you are looking for work on LinkedIn's job search function. Some postings say directly that they are looking for people with recommendations. And because you will put your LinkedIn profile url on your resume, it's helpful to have recommendations for a prospective employer to read. It can only help you, if you are careful about who you ask and what you accept in their recommendations.
6. Join groups related to your field of interest. Members of groups tend to reach out to one another, often joining each other's networks. And when you are a 2nd or 3rd degree connection to someone, you can often network with that person.
7. Post comments and questions, especially in the groups you join. This is a great way to build familiarity, as well as boost your reputation for expertise. People like to help people they know and feel comfortable with, as well as trust.
On Twitter, search for people in your field to follow who probably follow back (you can tell if they have a similar # of people they follow as # of followers). Use hash tags (#) to find other chefs, foodservice industry people, restaurateurs, and the jobsearch community. Obviously, @careerealism has MANY great people and resources for you to access.
Facebook is an interesting hybrid of very personal and somewhat professional networking. I suggest putting on a professional photograph, gathering lots of friends and family into your "friends" network, and posting updates that are upbeat and forward-looking.
Facebook is most appropriately a place for you to get friends thinking on your behalf about your job. I would not expect too much from here, however.You may get support for your job search here, if you are specific about what you are seeking and if you post updates like "met with Sally Schmally today regarding possible catering work" or "volunteered at the local ACF luncheon - what a great group of chefs!" These updates remind people you are looking for work and are staying active.
Because prospective employers now check lots of social networking sites, I would strongly suggest limiting the personal updates you do, putting on very few personal photographs, and putting your privacy settings on the highest level (Friends only can see posts).
More networking ideas: post your resume on some of the hospitality websites, e.g. http://www.hcareers.com/. Search for keywords on Twitter and LinkedIn, such as "Chef" or company names like "Sodexo" and "Starwood." Look for local job search sites. Go to industry events on your own dime or see if you can volunteer at networking events so you can go and do a little bit of networking - as well as get volunteer experience on your resume.
BEFORE YOU POST ANYTHING:
One critical thing to do is to make sure your resume is an effective marketing document. Does your resume highlight your accomplishments, e.g. how profitable your kitchens were? How many seats in your place of business? # of staff you supervised? Specials that were sold out? Food cost and labor cost controls implemented? Union staff or no? Are your certifications all up to date?
Improve your resume based on what you really want to do next. Have you identified the kind of challenges you want to work on at your next place of employment? Do you want a restaurant, hotel, chain, corporate dining, cafeteria, school, university, hospital or catering? Big, medium or small venue? Do you want to be Executive Chef or Chef de Cuisine? Lots of supervisory responsibility or more cooking tasks? What kind of work environment and culture is best for you? What's your "I can live with it and myself" compensation number, as well as your "I want to make" number?
Once you've gotten clear about exactly what you want, you can target your search to those places that meet your criteria. You can tailor your resume to include only those things you want to do again. It will be easier to network, too, because you can tell people what you're looking for - the kind of challenges and the skills you would bring to solving those challenges.