Social networking sites are designed to be entertaining. If there weren't so much fun to be had, there wouldn't be so many articles warning that what you post on your profile could one day cost you a job.
Yet, sites such as Facebook, Friendster and MySpace are evolving beyond their reputations. Social networking sites are becoming, for some users, platforms from which to network for job leads, forge professional contacts or even announce to friends that you are out of work.
Reach out: Chuck Hester has a LinkedIn network of more than 500 users.
Landing a job through a social network not designed for that purpose appears to be a rarity. But savvy users say the sites can be effective tools for promoting one’s job skills as well as all-round business networking. Even human resource professionals are encouraging people to log on.
In a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers published in March, employers indicated that whereas in the past they used social networking sites “to check profiles of potential hires,” said Marilyn Mackes, the group’s executive director, today “more than half will use the sites to network with potential candidates”.
CareerBuilder.com, the job search site, officially introduced a Facebook application last month that enables companies to find candidates. It joins other job-oriented Facebook applications, including one by Jobster that has more than 26,000 members.
Christine Pon Chin, a real estate agent with Bellmarc Realty in Manhattan, uses Facebook for both social and professional networking. “It’s helping me get additional buyers and sellers for the future,” said Chin, who began posting some of her exclusive property listings on Facebook a couple of months ago, when business slowed. Since then she has corresponded with potential buyers. “On Facebook I’m getting in touch with people I haven’t seen in years and who don’t necessarily know what I do — so it puts the word out,” she said.
Sonia Meertins, 32, who relocated to Los Angeles when her husband accepted a job, went virtual with her own job hunt around six weeks ago. A recruiter suggested she create profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn (designed expressly for business networking).
But Meertins, who is looking for work in sales and marketing, has been taken aback by the strangers and ghosts of classmates past who have “friended” her on Facebook. “You have absolutely no idea why they want to be connected to you,” she said, adding that LinkedIn feels more appropriate for job hunting. Still, she said: “Every resource that’s available, you try to use it. You see what washes out.”
Last year, Facebook itself began facilitating professional networking with the introduction of “pages”: profiles for businesses or professionals that other Facebook users can become “fans” of and receive updates about.
“When somebody joins your group on Facebook, they’re much more likely to be receptive to your message,” said Dustin Luther of Calabasas, California, who leads real estate seminars for sales agents and is the founder of the popular Seattle blog RainCityGuide.com. “It kind of keeps everybody engaged in an informal way.”
Chuck Hester, 49, of Raleigh, North Carolina, has profiles on both Facebook and LinkedIn, but it was his connections on LinkedIn that helped him land his current job. After relocating his family to Raleigh from California, Hester began using LinkedIn to reach out to marketing professionals in the area. Among them was the chief executive of iContact, an email software company where Hester is now the corporate communications director.
When he travels, he sends messages to members of his LinkedIn network suggesting that they meet for a meal or drink. A recent gathering in San Francisco brought together more than 20 members of his network. Every other month, Hester organizes “LinkedIn Live” meetings, where job candidates, recruiters and executives who have connected on the website can connect in person. The first meeting, in July, drew around 50 people; the last one had around 200.
“We can trace for a fact 20-30 people who got jobs from this,” said Hester, who is happy in his position, but continues to live by a networking credo, “Dig your well before you're thirsty.”
© 2008/The New York Times
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