Social and career networking sites are the latest tools for job seekers and employers. They can help improve your job search results. If you use them, think about your goals and how to present a professional image.
Why use online networking tools?
Online networking helps you learn about industries and companies. You can meet job networking contacts or people who can help you find work. Companies also use these sites to find and check out employees before they decide to interview or hire them.
Networking sites are a great way to market yourself. A professional online identity (profile) can result in career success. But photos in bad taste, use of bad language, and poor spelling can leave employers wondering what type of employee you would be.
What to know before you log on
Some sites let you read discussions and job postings without joining. Most sites only let you see or add content after you've created an account. Be careful about what you say about yourself and the items you put online:
- Don't list personal information or post comments, photos, or videos that you wouldn't want an employer to see.
- Think of everything you put online as public information.
- Do an online search of your name to see what information and/or images of you are on the Internet.
- Be careful of scams for fake job positions, training, or job search help.
For online group discussions, follow these tips:
- Find out if the online group has FAQs (frequently asked questions). Read them before participating.
- Stick to the topic.
- Limit your response to the current subject.
- Don't change the subject in the middle of the thread.
- Begin a new discussion if you want to change the subject.
- Consider when to respond to the group or to a specific individual.
- Respond to the individual if your reply is personal, off topic, or you want to limit the response.
- Respond to the group when your reply is of interest to the group.
Which online networking tools should you use?
There are many social tools and networking sites that can help with your job search. Here are a few of the most common ones:
LinkedIn is a useful site for people in professional jobs. Over 131 million people use it to keep up-to-date about their industry, have discussions, and find job openings. You can use LinkedIn to:
- Create and maintain an online identity. This profile tells an employer your skills, career goals, and work experience.
- Connect with those in your field and other people by adding them to your group of "connections." Connections may ask for recommendations from each other and share events and trends.
- Join groups and discussions of interest to you and your career goals. Find LinkedIn groups in your industry. Or create your own networking group. Groups are also a good place to ask questions and learn about job leads.
Facebook is a popular tool for getting to know others and letting them get to know you too. How you use Facebook is your choice.
- If you use it to stay in touch with friends and family, play online games, and post your pictures, keep your privacy settings as high as possible. Your profile may include a great deal of private information that would be illegal for an employer to ask. Some of it may hurt your chances of landing a job.
- If you choose to use it for career purposes, it is important to clean up your profile. Remove any posts, comments, photos, or online games that an employer might not approve of. Also, be careful about which groups you join and how you act online.
Twitter has become a useful tool for job seekers and employers. When you follow a Twitter user, you can see their messages (up to 140 characters) called "tweets." The latest tweets will show up at the top of your Twitter page or mobile device. You can search for tweets about job openings or send a link to your resume in a tweet.
The key to making Twitter work for you is to use hashtags. Hashtags are keywords (words that describe what you are looking for) following the # symbol. They allow Twitter users to "tag" their messages to make searching by a certain topic easier. If you click one of these hashtags in a message, Twitter will pull up all the recent tweets that use those keywords. Common hashtags used for job searches are:
Blogs are a common way for people and companies to get information out. Find blogs that keep you up-to-date about your career or industry. You can search for blogs using blog directories, such as Technorati and Blog Catalog. Blogs also show up in regular web searches.
Electronic mailing lists (sometimes referred to as LISTSERVs) have been around for years. They allow users to send an e-mail message to a group of people all at once. Some are set up as discussion groups and allow people on the list to talk back and forth. Mailing lists are used as a simple way to start discussions or push a message out to a certain group of people. Many Yahoo Groups have e-mail lists for their members. The best way to find a mailing list of interest to you is to check if your industry has one.
The networking tools above are just a start.
The online world changes quickly so new tools are popping up all the time. Also, different online resources are popular for different occupations, areas, and industries. As you make choices about online networking tools, remember that employers are using them too. Many employers check profiles on popular networking sites before making interviewing and hiring decisions.