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Jumpstart Your Job Search With Instagram

The social network could link you to your next employer.

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Instagram, like Facebook and Twitter, is huge. No doubt you already have an account, post often, and follow friends, family, celebrities, and brands. But Instagram is not simply a fun way to share photos and fill up your spare time. When used correctly, and judiciously, it can be an excellent tool that can be used in your job hunting.

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Follow the Companies You Want to Work For

Almost every company has an Instagram page these days. They're a small expense on the marketing budget, and with the correct use of hashtags, combined with shareable content, they can be a very cost-effective way to spread awareness. You should use this to your advantage.

Find the Instagram page of the company (or companies) you are applying to, and see what they're posting about. Instagram is a visual medium, so it will no doubt be a lot of creative, eye-catching content. Don't just look at the pictures though; read the post copy. And go back at least a year — even further if it's available. You want to absorb as much as you can. Take down notes. What are the major themes that keep cropping up? Which posts got the most likes? Which ones sparked conversation? You can use all of this in the interview, or use it to guide your application and cover letter. This is a great way to background-check any company.

Vet Your Current Instagram Account Carefully

Chances are, you already have an Instagram account. If that's the case, hopefully it doesn't contain content that could be off-putting to potential employers. People live their lives in public these days, and often don't consider the consequences of posting whatever comes into their heads. Instagram doesn't allow content that is very NSFW, but these days that is a fine line. It will still allow images that are provocative in many ways, and whether personal, sexual, or political, if it's too edgy, it could lead to your downfall.

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Employers look for you on social sites, and they can make a snap decision based on your Instagram posts that is not reflective of who you actually are. With that in mind, look through your posts and consider deleting anything that you would not want someone bringing up in an interview. While it was fun to chug that yard of ale, it may not exactly reflect the professionalism some companies are looking for.

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Create an Instagram Account Based on the Job You Want

You should seriously consider having an Instagram account that is directly tied to your career, and your future in the industry. If you're in advertising or marketing, set up an account that focuses on those areas of expertise. The same strategy can be used for any industry focus. You should already be actively interested in your profession anyway, so your personal Instagram account could already reflect some of that.

However, friends and family may not want to follow you if that's all you're posting. So, create and maintain an account that is dedicated to posts that are going to be of interest to the next company looking to hire you. And once again, keep the content appropriate for the industry. Obviously if you want to work in children's television, your account is going to look a lot different from someone who wants to be a fashion photographer.

#Hashtags Are Invaluable

Some Instagram users will often have a laundry list of hashtags in their posts. You've no doubt seen things like "#writing #creativewriting #poetry #wordsonfleek #englishlanguage #scholar" and thought, Wow, that's overkill. Actually, it's not.

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Hashtags like these are signposts that bring people to your posts based on their interests. If you're really into vintage cars, searching #vintagecars on Instagram brings up over 350,000 entries. #KimKardashian delivers over 4.9 million posts! So how can this help you? Well, what kind of job are you looking for? If you want to be a DJ in a local club, start posting images and tagging them with the name of the club you'd like to work for, plus other relevant tags based on night life and music. If you want to be considered for a top job in an ad agency, tag the agency you'd really like to work for, and maybe the names of the accounts they work on, and the senior executives. Hashtags, when used correctly, can be a precise way to get the right people looking at your posts. And of course, you can also search for hashtags of employers and get the same advantages.

Make Professional Connections

There are more than 500 million monthly active users on Instagram. That's around one in 15 people in the world. Consider that for a moment. One fifteenth of the world's population actively posts to Instagram every single month. And the chances of someone influential in your industry being on Instagram? It's a certainty. So, use Instagram to make connections. Follow the people in your industry who are making waves. Go local, and find people near you who can make a difference. Like their posts. Comment on them. Tag them in posts you think will interest them. You'll be amazed at how quickly a professional relationship can sprout from a few months of Instagram interaction.

Cross-Link to Other Social Media Sites

There are more than 1.7 billion monthly active users on Facebook, and more than 300 million on Twitter. Then, there are the other more niche social media platforms that still generate a lot of traffic, including Pinterest and Snapchat. Most professional Instagram users these days will use their account to drive people to their other sites, and that's smart. While you may follow someone on Instagram, you may not realize they are also active on Twitter and Snapchat. So, do the same. Cross-link, or cross-post, to other sites. Many companies have a much greater Facebook presence than Instagram, but the two are not mutually exclusive. By linking the accounts, the chances of making connections with influential people in your industry skyrocket. And, you have a greater chance of being found by your next employer if you spread yourself across many sites.

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Remember, Instagram, like many other social media sites, has many layers. On the surface, it can simply be a fun and easy way to share images, and find like-minded people. But dig deeper, and you have a tool available to you that can land you a job, or even generate some income.

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This article is from Paul Michael of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website.

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This article is from Wise Bread, not the Kiplinger editorial staff.