Integrating Instant Messaging into Your Job Search

Instant messaging (IM) services can be a good tool to use when job searching. If you have an instant message account you can use it for networking, both with the people on your buddy list and with professional contacts. You can also sign up to receive new job postings via IM.

Instant messaging allows users to be in direct contact in real time, which saves going back and forth via email or playing phone tag.

Here’s how to integrate instant messaging into your job search:

Set Up Instant Message Accounts
The top instant messaging services are AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, ICQ, and Google Talk. AIM is the most popular service, but, some users have multiple accounts and login to those accounts simultaneously. There’s also software available, like Trillian, that will let you access several accounts at once and manage your instant messaging.

Choose Your Screen Name Carefully
If you are using instant messaging for job searching, for networking, or for anything remotely related to your career, please make sure that your screen name sounds professional. Consider setting up a new IM account just to use for job searching, so you can keep your personal and your professional lives separate.

Add Your IM Screen Names to Your Profile
In order to use instant messaging when job searching at a site that supports it, you’ll need to add your IM information to your job search account. When you register with job sites and with social / business networking sites you will be able to add your screen name to your profile on some sites. Monster, for example, lets you list your AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and ICQ screen names. You can also create a screen name to use on Monster’s message boards. LinkedIn, the networking site, as another example, also lets you add your instant message screen name to your profile.

Privacy Issues
When you make your profile public, you are making it available to all members. That means that you’ll receive contacts from other members, as well as being able to outreach yourself. So, once you publish your screen name, expect to get contacted.

Be Professional
When you IM a contact who you don’t know, let them know who you are and ask them if you have time to chat. Also let the person know how you found them. If you’re not comfortable having a conversation via instant message, and not everybody is, ask if you can call.

Watch the Clock
If you are networking with a professional contact, be cognizant of the time and try to contact them during business hours, when possible. At the least, don’t start sending job-related instant messages late in the evening.

Use Your Buddy List
One of the benefits of networking is that you never know who might be able to help with your job search. When you’re talking to your buddies, it’s a good idea to mention that you’re looking for new job. Someone may be able to help.

Use Your Contacts
If you belong to social or career networks check to see if you can search for contacts at companies where you want to work. You may be able to IM a company contact for job search assistance.

Get Help
Many college career offices provide answers to quick questions, and sometimes distance counseling, via instant message. If you’re a college student or graduate check to see how your college can assist you long-distance. There are also career counselors who provide counseling via email and instant message.

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