I thought Pinterest was pretty much the domain of women in their 20s who like sharing photos of fashion, food and wedding dresses.
But after learning that this social network has nearly 50 million users – including 12 percent of all Internet users age 50 to 64 (primarily women) – I decided to see how it might be useful to manage and advance your career.
What I found is that as the number of Pinterest users has grown, the site has evolved from a fun online scrapbooking network into an increasingly useful platform for job seekers and prospective career changers of all ages.
(MORE: How to Use Social Media to Find a Job)
You might want to start using Pinterest as a jobs tool even if you’re a few decades beyond your 20s – whether you’re a woman or a man – and even if you've never spent a second on Pinterest previously.
Pinterest Basics for the Uninitiated
Before getting into the specifics of how to use Pinterest to advance your career, let me offer a quick tutorial about this visual-heavy social network for the uninitiated. (Pinterest has its own guide for newbies, called Pinning 101.)
After you register for an account, Pinterest lets you “pin” and share items that interest you – like recipes, photos of dream vacation spots and blog posts – via online bulletin boards known as pinboards, the modern equivalent of tearing pages out of decorating magazines. As you build your boards, so do your friends, who spread your content by “repinning” your pins and sharing them with their networks.
Pinterest’s “Pin It” button lets you link to content you’ve spotted on a website or another pinboard as well as images you’ve uploaded from your computer and share them with your friends. The site also allows you to register through your Facebook and Twitter accounts, so you can share with those networks, too.
Pinterest for Online Networking
While I maintain that most of your online networking energy should be spent on LinkedIn and Twitter, Pinterest offers a fun and easy way for people in creative fields – like marketers, photographers and designers – to showcase their talents and portfolio of work.
(MORE: How to Use LinkedIn to Promote Your Personal Brand)
Whether you’re in what’s generally considered a creative industry or not, you can still use Pinterest as a resource to change careers, research companies or locate freelance work.
Here are five ways:
1. Research a potential career. Pinterest is a great place to find inspiration and information about new career and entrepreneurial possibilities. Just type your relevant terms into the search box in the top navigation bar.
As a test, I decided to see what Pinterest would turn up for someone interested in getting into the pet grooming business. My search turned up data-heavy infographics about the grooming industry, a sampling of pet care business card templates, links to books about starting up and an assortment of pet care businesses for sale around the country. Not bad.
2. Learn about companies you want to work for. Because Pinterest is such a visual medium, employer pinboards offer a great way to get a feel for a company’s culture, sensibility and work environment. For example, on the Pinterest page of Media Bistro (a jobs and recruiting site for social media and traditional media professionals), you’ll find photos of the company’s cocktail parties, intern events and book clubs.
To see if a prospective employer is on Pinterest, type its name into the search box at the top of the navigation bar. If that generates too many possibilities, go to Google and search for the Pinterest page of the company or organization.
You can even use Pinterest to attract the attention of potential employers by following their boards, repinning their content and commenting on their pins.
I thought Pinterest might also be a good way to search company boards for job openings, but after trying unsuccessfully to do so, I’ve concluded it’s best to stick with conventional job boards, like aggregators SimplyHired.com and Indeed.com, at least for now. Maybe, over time, Pinterest will expand in this direction.
3. Get advice from career experts. Interested in learning the latest employment tips from top career pros around the world? Pinterest can help.
A number of my career-coaching colleagues, and others like them, now use Pinterest to share their expertise.
Two of my favorites are:
- Jan Melnik’s Career Coaches Corner, a pinboard of articles, advice and statistics for jobseekers.
- Josh Waldman's pinboard, filled with infographics for job seekers and stats related to common job search topics.
In addition, the FlexJobs Pinterest board has excellent job interview tips and my alma mater, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has created several helpful career-related pinboards.
(MORE: 3 Social Media Tips to Help Women’s Careers)
After seeing these pinboards, I was inspired to start one of my own: Second-Act Careers for People Over 50. Please take a look and let me know what you think!
4. Build a visual resumé. While the conventional black and white text resumé is still the required format for most job seekers, a visual version on Pinterest can be a fun way to supplement your job search collateral and distinguish you from the crowd.
A visual resumé is a board that showcases the various parts of your work history with different pins and tells your story in a compelling visual format.
What to include?
Pin photos of schools you’ve attended and logos linking to websites of the companies where you’ve worked.
If you’re involved with a charity or professional association, make an eye-catching pinboard that shows your commitment and achievements. Just be careful to avoid pinning information about potentially sensitive topics, like politics or religion, unless you’re in (or want to get into) one of those fields.
Use the text box provided with each pin to describe how the particular pin relates to your career or job objectives.
You might even consider creating and pinning an infographic resumé, a hypervisual representation of your career history, education and skills. The free online tool, vizualize.me, can assist you.
Once your visual resumé board is completed, share it with friends who can then spread it to their networks as well. You could also add a link to your pinboard on your standard resumé, LinkedIn profile and email signature.
Hannah Morgan’s pinboard of visual resumés has some great examples. And as you can see from these eye-catching samples – an IT visual resumé and one for someone looking for a job in workplace safety — there are multiple ways to showcase your story. The key is ensuring that the content, style and tone accurately depicts your professional image and job objectives.
5. Create a projects board to get freelance work. This is a pinboard that showcases your portfolio so prospective clients can see how great you are and hire you.
Alfredo Catedral, who lives in Los Angeles and Brooklyn, N.Y., built a projects board on Pinterest and it has paid off nicely. Catedral initially used Pinterest to get inspiration for his graphic design business to share his own projects on the social networking site. His followers soon began offering him jobs for small remodeling and decorating projects.
“Pinterest is such a highly visual experience,” he says. “It’s helped me connect with new customers and generate ideas for my business.” Recently, Catedral also started Brooklyn Grooming, a line of men’s hair and skin products, and is using Pinterest to connect to customers for that, too.
One Small Caveat About Pinterest
No matter how you choose to use Pinterest for your career, I should tell you that this platform can be highly addictive. Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak calls it “digital crack for women.”
So, enjoy your time there, but please don’t let Pinterest distract you from all the important work tasks that require your attention — assuming you want to keep your current job.