People@Work: Social media gives job seekers a leg up in finding work
In this inaugural column, we take a look at social media and how it's becoming a powerful tool for finding work in an increasingly crowded job market.
No one needs to tell anyone who has lost a job recently that finding a new one in this economy is difficult. The good news is job seekers today have many more tools at their disposal than they did even five years ago. Beyond online job boards and resume submission, social media Web sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are playing an increasingly important role in helping unemployed workers and job-changers find someone they can connect with at virtually any company or organization.
That's not merely hyperbole. The number of Americans belonging to social networking sites has grown significantly in the last five years. Estimates show that 51% of online adults in the U.S. use social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, according to a recent survey by Forrester Research. That's up from 25% just two years ago.
So powerful are these networking tools that most career experts advise all job seekers to open LinkedIn accounts. They include John Challenger, chief executive at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based employment-services firm. "We feel that these new networking tools are essential," he says.
Facebook's Friends Get Older
Challenger credits the rise to increased use among business professionals, noting that the most rapidly growing age group represented on Facebook are those 35 and older. Busy professionals are taking to Twitter, too. A recent survey showed 19% of Internet users share personal and business updates on Twitter or other status-update services, up from 11% earlier this year, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Of course it isn't only job seekers who are increasingly using social networks as a resource. Employers, too, see them as valuable tools, says Barbara Safani, owner of CareerSolvers.com, a Manhattan-based job-search service.
There's greater likelihood these days that employers will look at potential employees online before they are called in for an interview, Safani says. "So it's very important for job candidates to have an online presence so they can be found online."
That can help distinguish you from the pack, an important advantage given the current state of the economy. Safani says job candidates need to "take control" of their online identities to make sure it is consistent with the professional message they want to communicate.
Don't Avoid Offline Meetings
One way to that is to impart valuable tips or information via a blog or virtual conversation with other professionals, she says. When recruiters come to call, having a calling card of ideas and knowledge can help you stand out from the pack.
Employment-expert Barry Miller uses social networks as a way to raise awareness about trainings, job openings or search tips. For example, Miller will post the latest link for his career-advice column on Examiner.com to his Twitter account, which is set up to also post to his Facebook profile.
It's a fast and easy way to get such information out to his 2,500 followers, says Miller, manager of alumni career programs and services at Pace University in Manhattan. Miller uses LinkedIn as a way to mine for jobs his clients maybe interested in. By connecting with people within certain industries, say, information technology, he can help employers and job seekers find each other.
Of course, social media isn't the only tool job seekers should employ when conducting a job search, and Challenger warns that candidates can become too dependent upon them. "They will never replace the face-to-face connections that are critical to a successful search," he says.