You might think of Pinterest as another way to kill time online when you should be doing something more important. Millions of early adopters put the 2-year-old social network on the map doing just that -- sharing pictures of cute outfits, cool home interiors and exotic travel destinations.
Now that 11.7 million people and companies are using it, though, Pinterest is emerging as an online tool that job seekers can use to market themselves and explore potential careers, industries and employers.
Pinterest lets you save photos or images from news stories, blog posts or other online content in the form of pins that are organized into folders called boards. You can follow other people and re-pin, comment or "Like" their pins. You also can link your Pinterest boards to your accounts on Facebook or Twitter.
Here's how to use Pinterest for a job search:
1. Optimize your Pinterest profile. Adjust account settings to allow your profile to appear in results of searches on Google and other search engines. Load your profile description with keywords that match the job you want. Include a recent photograph and links to your website or LinkedIn profile so potential employers can learn more about you. Here's one example of a Pinterest resume, from a Harvard Business School student who hopes it'll lead to a job with the online network.
2. Set up an online resume and portfolio. Gather samples of your work onto one or more boards to use as an online resume. Don't get cute with labels; call your resume board "My Resume" or something similar so it's easy to find. Pinterest is especially useful if you work in photography, architecture, interior design or other creative fields, "because it has this strong emphasis on the visuals. It's one more access point into your work," Favreau says. But anyone can use the site to create an online portfolio. Just make sure that the resume or portfolio you're linking back to has an image you can pin. This San Francisco Chronicle story shares how one Bay Area marketing manager uses Pinterest to showcase his current and previous jobs.
3. Dedicate a board to careers you're curious about. If you're searching for your next act, use Pinterest to find information on jobs or careers. Use the search box -- located in the upper left-hand corner of the site's front page -- to enter related words or phrases. Pin anything that comes up that you want to save for future reference.
4. Create boards for companies or industries you'd like to know better. Pinterest can give you a glimpse into a company's culture that you can't get from reading their "About Us" page, Favreau says. "If they're sharing Instagram pictures of their office, you won't find that a whole lot of other places," she says.
5. Follow experts. Keep up with employment trends by following the university career centers, jobs websites, outplacement specialists and career coaches that have set up shop on Pinterest. SecondAct has a board dedicated to all things work-related called Get a Job. I've also created a Job Hunting and Careers board with pointers to my stories here and other resources. Favreau also recommends following Career Bliss, BrazenCareerist, and Lea McLeod, a Portland, Ore., career expert who works with midcareer and other professionals.
6. Leave comments. Strike up a conversation with a career expert or someone who works in a field you're interested in by commenting on one of their pins. As with any other type of online or real-world networking, you never know where it could lead.
7. Wander around. Do some browsing to see what's out there. "If you're constantly coming back to the same area, or something keeps popping out at you, if might be worth exploring" as a career option, Favreau says. She also recommends using the site as a mental boost for your job-hunting efforts, and created a Career Inspirations board for that reason.
8. Protect your work. If you're sharing photography or other original work on your boards, use watermarks to protect individual images just as you would when displaying them on other websites. You want your work to be out there, but it pays to be on your guard, Favreau says.
9. Be professional. If all you do on Pinterest is share pictures of puppies, think twice about sharing your Pinterest profile with potential employers. "But if you are using it for a job search, it is an impression of who you are, so when you're creating your boards, make sure they line up with your professional appearance," she says.
10. Watch out for spammers. The bigger Pinterest grows, the more spammers it's attracting. To prevent unwittingly passing along spam disguised as a normal pin, be sure to click through on images to see where they lead before re-pinning them. Don't click on pins that look like ads or giveaways, which Pinterest doesn't offer or condone. Here's what else you can to do to avoid Pinterest spammers.
A final word about Pinterest: It can be extremely habit-forming. "I set myself to short periods of time, like 15 minutes, because although it can be an amazing tool, it's also a distraction," Favreau says. "It's so easy to [lose track of time] it's kind of shocking."
Do you have any other tips your can share for job using social media? Share your thoughts below!
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