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Instagram may just be the new LinkedIn

  • Creative professionals are using Instagram’s visual storytelling to showcase their work and get a job
  • According to Statista, Instagram has 71 million monthly active users in India

Jheel Mehta with Mutterfly founder Akshay Bhatia
Jheel Mehta with Mutterfly founder Akshay Bhatia

When Achin Bhattacharya, CEO and founder of Notebook, an edtech startup based in Kolkata, wanted to create an artistic video for his startup, his team headed to Instagram to search for Indian caricaturists.

According to Statista, Instagram has 71 million monthly active users in India and is the most popular social network worldwide when it comes to young adults and millennials.

It’s on Instagram that Bhattacharya’s team found Debangshu Moulik, a Pune-based graphic artist. Impressed by his credentials, his Instagram portfolio and the fact that he had 41,300 followers on the social media platform, Bhattacharya’s team hired him.

For 19-year-old Moulik, who is still in college, Instagram has been a good place to showcase his art. He joined the platform in July 2012 as a teenager and after six years on the network, has more than 40,000 followers. Recently, he showcased his graphic art, and as a result, has received few projects through the network.

“It is a norm for artists like me to use Instagram as an instant portfolio," Moulik says, adding that for most visual creative professionals, the platform is a perfect place to put out “free advertisements" of their work. “Clients approach us based on both the quality of the work as well as our social media influence status. I am fortunate to live in a time when anyone has the tools to showcase their work," he says.

It’s a win-win situation actually. The presence of creative professionals, just a few clicks away on social networks like Instagram is a boon for startup founders like Bhattacharya, 41, who have limited resources for finding new talent when hiring. “My alternative would have been to post a job advertisement at the Kolkata Government Art College and spend resources to go through the wrong choices before we found someone right," says Bhattacharya. On Instagram, he just browsed through artists’ portfolios to understand their work, and reduced the risk of hiring someone who might create discordant content.

Like Moulik, 21-year-old Jheel Mehta, a student at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management, Mumbai came on Instagram to increase her social presence and to stay up-to-date about her areas of interest. When Mutterfly, a rental e-commerce platform, was on the look out for a social media executive, Mehta applied by sending in her resume through Instagram’s direct message to Mutterfly’s Instagram page. This was an unusual move, as most of her classmates used the formal channels for application—LinkedIn or an email with their resume attached. That’s exactly what caught Mutterfly’s attention. “This showed me that Jheel had the confidence to think outside the box, even before I opened her resume," says Mumbai-based Akshay Bhatia, founder, Mutterfly. Since Instagram-first approach was a prerequisite for the job, Mehta’s resume was shortlisted, and she was eventually hired by the startup.

Debangshu Moulik, a freelance graphic artist
Debangshu Moulik, a freelance graphic artist

While LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, and AngelList, the hiring network for startups, are still the de facto when it comes to hiring for technical positions or for management, Instagram is the best tool when it comes to hiring for creative positions, feels Bhatia. “I would go to Instagram for graphic designers, UI/UX designers, or even for marketing professionals," he says, adding that the creative people, who approach his brand directly, through Instagram’s direct message or interact with other brands actively, are people who would stand out for him. If you engage with a company or brand on a social media platform, pitch yourself well digitally and proactively reach out and show your interest, it sends a clear message to the employer: you’re worthy of working for the company. “Hiring managers are looking for prospective employees who are eager, savvy, active on social media platforms and of course, fit into the company’s profile," says Sanjay Vakharia, CEO, Spykar, a clothing brand. He says his HR team is constantly on the lookout for candidates, who engage the team on various social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. “Companies like prospective employees who have engaged with their social pages," he says. Kaamini Shrivastav, a Mumbai-based makeup artist, surfs Instagram to learn new makeup techniques, track what her competition is doing, build contacts and keep herself up-to-date on latest products. “I use Instagram to market my work, build contacts and get more work," says the 38-year-old, adding that it’s thanks to the network that prospective brides, editorial and production teams have reached out to her. “It’s the new normal. Everyone from my academy is doing it to get new projects," she says.

For Leap India Institute, a vocational institute in Mumbai from where Shrivastav did her makeup course, social media presence is essential. “As part of the course, we teach students best social media posting practices so they can use the tools and grow as photographers and makeup artists," says Priyanka Gupta, director, Leap India. Today, anyone looking to hire creative professionals can access and assess an Instagram portfolio quicker than a traditional portfolio sent through email. Though LinkedIn and other domain-specific platforms are important too, Instagram is one of the biggest content pushers for digital portfolios and a lot of Gupta’s students have been identified through the platform and approached for projects. “You need both online and offline marketing to make it out there as a creative professional today," adds the 33-year-old. It’s the same with brands. Innovative companies are already putting Instagram on their list of places to find prospective employees. After all, a person who interacts with their brand, can always be a good prospect to work for it.

Instagram hashtags for jobseekers

#job: With more than 18 million posts, this is the first one to follow.

#jobs: A variant of the singular, this one gets more than 2.5 million posts on any given day.

#HR: Popular with the human resources people on the lookout for prospective employees.

#hireme: For the ones actively on the lookout, this one has a formidable 500,000 posts.

#jobsearch: Impressive 600,000 posts every day use this hashtag. Enough to keep you busy for the day.

Best Instagram practices 

Be professional: The first rule when you’re looking for a job through the social network is to post professionally only. That would mean no selfies or drunken party pictures. It’s best to separate the personal and professional accounts.

Rewrite that bio: Those two lines and a link in your bio is all you’re allowed on Instagram. Make the most of it by concisely writing what you do, your skills and interests and that you’re open to projects or searching for a job. Add a link that opens to your portfolio, website, online resume or LinkedIn.

Create a visual resume: Build the account on stories and posts that are relevant for your career. Latest thoughts, motivational quotes, advice from experts, videos demonstrating your work, photos of you working, or attending conferences and events relevant for your career. Remember, a photo speaks a thousand words.

Build your network: Who you follow is as important as the content you post. Find out who is in your industry matters the most, follow people and companies you want to potentially get hired by, post, interact, exchange and wait for an opening.

Send messages: Don’t be afraid to be proactive and seek a potential job opening in a company of your choice. Ask for an informational interview or request to be put in touch with the HR team or hiring manager.

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