A chalk figure swings a tennis racket like a golf club toward a basketball on the ground.
The trick is to do *everything*!

I’m mentoring a very pleasant fellow who would like to get his Ruby resume in order and get hired in Rails. He asked me, “how important is a presence on social media, just to find a role?”

Here’s roughly what I told him.

With your tech stack, you’ll want a specialty — in his case, Rails. But you’ll also want a specialization in how you look for jobs. You don’t have to do everything, but you should do something, and you should know what your specialty is.

A specialty can mean social media and/or blog posts. It can mean a strong network of previous coworkers – e.g. make a point of looking good at work and publicising what you do there internally. It can mean going to industry conferences and meetups. It can mean being well-known to managers or execs and probably following one or more good ones. More people follow an executive or manager from company to company than you’d think!

If you’re early in your career, you don’t have to be far along in any of those specialties. But after you choose one, you’ll know what to focus on and what not to worry too much about. Is your Twitter full of unpopular opinions? Doesn’t matter if you get your jobs through LinkedIn recommendations and previous coworker networking. Obviously, put work into whatever category you pick. If you do more contracting-flavoured work it opens up options like “word of mouth from previous clients,” while making other options like “coworker/manager recommendations” a lot harder.

Twitter, blogs and so on have worked very well for me. But keep in mind that my book and my public Ruby work are my career power these days. That requires a bunch of supporting work to happen on social media. My Twitter is too human and personal. I only get away with it because the Ruby world is chatty and small, and I match their opinions pretty well. So: my other advantages make “get jobs via media presence” screamingly obvious. But if I had different main selling points then there might be a different screamingly obvious channel.

For instance, if you scaled up a billing system from $20k/year to $2billion/year but you couldn’t reveal how you did it in public, social media wouldn’t combine well. That calls for coworker or executive recommendations and other forms of direct, one-on-one speaking with decision makers.

Or if you have enormous personal charm but no video presence (it happens!) then you might do better with one-on-one networking, meetups, conferences and so on.

A lot of people know the startup crowd, and they tend to stay in a small pool of companies at any given time. That works, though a lot of your pay will be in lottery tickets (non-tradeable equity locked up in non-public companies.) But it will get you jobs for as long as you want them.

If you wind up going for the “via managers and/or execs” channel, you’ll want to be very careful to communicate to them when you work with them – you want to be their buddy, at least in a work sense. There’s a technique to it and you should learn it.

In all of these cases you’ll want to put effort specifically into setting yourself up for future roles. Even if you’re not planning to switch, it’s important to have options. And all of these things help your current role too, not just your later career.