Crowdsourcing your job search

Organizations are increasingly using the wisdom of crowds

Careers are very personal things. Most people choose their paths, and make decisions along the way, based on their own thinking and counsel from family, friends, teachers, close colleagues and mentors.

While self-reflection and the gathering of advice from one’s immediate circle can be useful, I’d like to suggest a more modern approach. Organizations are increasingly using the wisdom of crowds to drive their strategy, innovation and marketing initiatives. Why shouldn’t you use similar strategies for your job search?

Here are four ways to do it right:

– EXPLORE YOUR PASSIONS. One of the best stories I discovered in researching my book, “Mindsharing”, was that of a 28-year-old woman from Tel Aviv who had grown frustrated by the unpredictable and temporary nature of her television programming job. She decided it was time for a career change and began to brainstorm ideas on her own, seeking advice from friends and even meeting with a jobs counselor. But her breakthrough came when she posted an appeal on Facebook asking if any of her contacts would be willing to take her to their places of work for a day. Many said yes, and she took five people up on the offer. During each visit, she envisioned herself in that job, industry, or organization – but in the end she realized that none of them excited her as much as her current profession. Crowdsourcing helped her figure out she should stay put. For others, it might spark or invigorate new passions.

– GET INSIDE INFORMATION. Corporate salaries, interview procedures and employee satisfaction levels used to be well-guarded secrets. Not anymore. Websites such as Glassdoor give you an amazing inside look at jobs and companies, helping you determine what it’s really like to work at various places in different roles. Want to know what interview questions you’re likely to get asked at Apple? How much middle managers make at American Express in various cities around the world? Or what the vacation policy is like at McKinsey? The crowd can tell you.

– PERFECT YOUR RÉSUMÉRESUME. The Internet is awash with resources on this topic. Perhaps my favorite destination for crowd-sourced advice is the résumés area on Reddit. Examples of threads: “Trying to get a job in Web development, would love your merciless critique on this résumé!”; “Should I list ‘good problem-solving skills’ on my résumé?” Reddit users rate the responses so the most useful usually appear at the top. On other websites, such as Craigslist or Fiverr, you can find people who will not just offer advice, but also edit your résumé or design your business card or website. Here’s a short video on many of the sites mentioned above.

– BUILD YOUR EXPERIENCE. If lack of experience has become a stumbling block in your career, you can use the crowd to gain it. Tell your LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friends and Twitter followers that you’re looking to build skills in a particular area, and ask if anyone can help. Volunteer to work as an intern or apprentice. Answer relevant help-wanted requests on sites like Craiglist or Fiverr and post your own help-offered ads.

(Lior Zoref is a crowd wisdom researcher, speaker, consultant and the author of “Mindsharing: The Art of Crowdsourcing Everything.”)

© 2015 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate